Things move pretty quickly in the Pacific Coast League, but Adam Conley is learning to slow it all down.
The Marlins' No. 5 prospect struck out seven over seven innings on Saturday night as Triple-A New Orleans blanked Omaha, 3-0, at Zephyr Field.
Since allowing seven runs on eight hits in his first start of the season against Colorado Springs, Conley (2-2) has adapted quickly to life in the PCL. Over his last four starts, he's given up a total of six runs while earning a pair of wins.
"Interestingly enough, if you look at some of the lower level teams, you'll find guys that have the talent to play and excel at Double-A and Triple-A," said Conley, who yielded five hits and two walks. "The difference you find is experience and consistency. You find one guy that can be a starter in the big leagues one day, and the next week he struggles to find his swing, can't find a routine and things like that. The biggest thing I've noticed in the hitters here is the experience they have."
Operating with a lead after a first-inning RBI single by Mark Canha, Conley faced only two batters over the minimum through six innings, thanks to a pair of double plays and a pickoff.
Kyle Jensen doubled the Zephyrs' lead with a run-scoring groundout in the fifth.
"I think it's just [about] not taking a pitch off," Conley said of his first Triple-A experience. "Some days, if you've got good stuff, you take for granted being able to lay an early slider or a changeup in there for a strike or throw a get-me-over fastball early. With some of these guys, if they're hunting the fastball and want to hit it early, if you try to lay one in there, they're going to be on time for it.
"When runners get on, I'm trying to get a feel for what the hitter's approach is and what he's trying to do. Hopefully, I can pitch with a strength against his weakness. If I'm doing things right, the worst-case scenario would be that I'm throwing my strength against their strength. When things are right, I like my odds."
Conley finished his night by wriggling out of his toughest jam. The Washington State product yielded a leadoff single in the seventh to Johnny Giavotella and walked Carlos Peguero before striking out Brian Fletcher and Matt Fields and getting Paolo Orlando to fly out on his 86th pitch.
"Another thing I've noticed in this league is how fast damage can be done," Conley said. "Having the first two guys get on, I know that based on what I've learned this season and in my experience in professional baseball, when guys get on, I need to execute pitches and be as efficient as I can. Luckily, some ground balls for double plays today helped a ton, kept the pitch count reasonable and allowed me to get into the seventh."
The performance extended Conley's scoreless streak to 18 innings and marked the third time in his career that he's turned in seven shutout frames. Arquimedes Caminero pitched around a walk and struck out three over two hitless innings for his first Triple-A save. He closed out the Zephyrs' third shutout in eight games.
"When you see one guy do it, you just kind of feel lighter," Conley said of the staff's recent success. "You feel like maybe their hitters are off-balance or they're not comfortable. Any edge you can have, whether you're pitching or trying to hit, this is a tough game. Any advantage you can get or any feeling of confidence you can get is going to help you a lot."
Storm Chasers starter Aaron Brooks (0-1) took the loss after allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings.