If you looked at the first few columns of Damien Magnifico's pitching line from May 13 for Class A Advanced Brevard County against Fort Myers, you'd think it was a decent start. He allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Then, you'd get to the walks. There were six of them, and that's where even Magnifico's analysis of his own outing went south. "Sometimes you just suck..." he tweeted afterwards.
"Last time out, I got too ahead of myself," he said. "I was struggling to get anything into the zone, so I tried to slow it down a bit and focus on what's ahead of me a little more."
The difference seemed to work wonders in his next outing on Monday.
The 22-year-old right-hander scattered two hits and only walked one while pitching all nine innings in Brevard County's 1-0 win over Jupiter. It was the first shutout as well as the first complete game of his three-season Minor League career, which had spanned 38 appearances entering Monday's matinee.
Thanks to his improved focus and control, Magnifico didn't allow more than one Hammerhead to reach base in any of his nine innings. A Viosergy Rosa single in the second, a Blake Barber walk in the third and an Austin Barnes single in the seventh were his only personal blemishes in the gem. (Barber also reached on an error by Manatees shortstop Yadiel Rivera in the sixth).
"I was working with a fastball, slider and changeup," he said. "All three were pretty solid, but the changeup was pretty tough at first. It probably didn't really come around until the third. The slider was really good, though, from the beginning."
With that three-pitch mix, Magnifico was able to keep Jupiter on the ground for most of the gem, recording 15 groundouts compared to four flyouts, five strikeouts, two pop outs and a lineout.
"That came from the slider some, but we were focusing a lot on getting fastballs in," he said. "They just got on top of a lot of them, and that's what caused so many to get on the ground."
Following the gem, the Brewers' 2012 fifth-round pick is 3-3 with a 2.37 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and .215 batting average against through nine starts (49 1/3 innings). He has yet to give up a homer in that span.
Those numbers resemble a different story than the one told by his first trip to the Florida State League late last season.
After going 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA at Class A Wisconsin, Magnifico moved to Brevard County in late June but could never get his bearings at the new level. He gave up a combined 10 earned runs in his first three starts (12 2/3 innings), and a blister on his finger kept him from lasting longer than three innings in any start the rest of the way. He finished 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in 10 FSL starts (26 2/3 innings).
Now healthy, the right-hander hopes the longest outing of his career is a sign that last season -- and his previous start -- are both behind him for good.
"Last year, I came here and felt like I had to prove something and forced it a little bit," he said. "After a couple of starts, the coaches came to me and told me to just trust my stuff more. Then, I had the blister, but that was something I carried into instructs and this season.
"Now, it's just about keeping that focus, letting my arm travel more instead of forcing it. Those are things that seem to be working well."
Reigning FSL Pitcher of the Week Scott Lyman (3-3) suffered the loss for Jupiter despite giving up only one unearned run on eight hits and a walk while striking out six in six innings.
Left fielder Victor Roache, who finished 2-for-4, plated Tyrone Taylor with a single off Lyman in the sixth inning to give the Manatees the only run of the game.