After walking 10 batters in his first three starts -- including six in his season debut -- Vanderbilt product Kevin Ziomek went to work on his mechanics.
"Just trying to keep everything slow," he said. "Early in the year, a lot of guys have a tendency to rush, and I think I was doing that. I was blowing through my delivery, rushing toward the plate a little. Today, I was able to stay back."
The Tigers' 2013 second-round pick made the adjustment and pounded the strike zone with low fastballs and sliders Sunday. The left-hander scattered three hits without a walk over a career-high eight shutout frames for Class A West Michigan in a 2-1 victory over Fort Wayne.
Ziomek (1-2) induced 12 groundouts in his first professional win. The Whitecaps starter struck out six TinCaps and slimmed his ERA to 1.31 through four Midwest League starts.
Detroit's No. 14 prospect said he induced most of his groundouts from right-handers with two-seamers down and away, but focused more on setting up his slider against lefties. The key to all of it was his command, though, something he's been working to improve since walking six and allowing five runs (two earned) against Wisconsin on April 9.
"I think the biggest thing was filling up the zone," he said. "The past couple of outings, and really since I've been up here, I haven't been doing as good a job as I'd like getting ahead and throwing first-pitch strikes.
"I think that's something I've done in the past is rush. I've been a little excited out there. I was able to slow everything down this week. I worked with the coaching staff a lot on that."
Ziomek avoided trouble for most of his outing, spreading Fort Wayne's three singles across different frames. After allowing singles in the third and fourth innings, the 22-year-old retired 14 straight, working through the seventh in just 77 pitches.
"I think I kind of just got in a rhythm there," he said. "I felt comfortable. A big thing for me is getting comfortable on the mound out there. The middle innings, I tend to do well like that. I found it after the first couple of innings and we just stuck with the pitch selection and it went well."
Fort Wayne broke through with a leadoff single from Ryan Miller to start the eighth, and then Ziomek plunked Jake Bauers with a pitch. Ziomek evaded the jam, though, by striking out Jose Carlos Urena then getting a popup from Henry Charles and a groundout from Mallex Smith to wrap up the gem.
The win was the first as a pro for Ziomek, who managed a 4.50 ERA in four starts with Class A Short Season Connecticut after signing last summer.
"It's exciting," he said. "At the same time, it's just another notch in the belt. It's not something to go crazy about. It's time to move on and prepare for the next one."