Tyler DeLoach found out he was going to start for Inland Empire just five hours before the first pitch, but you couldn't tell that from the seven innings he spun.
With a season-high nine strikeouts and a season-low two hits allowed, the Angels prospect propelled the Class A Advanced 66ers to a 6-0 shutout of the Modesto Nuts.
"He really commanded both sides of the plate," Inland Empire manager Denny Hocking said. "When he comes out and throws a performance like tonight after late notice, it shows the type of kid he is. He came out and tried to show that he could be a starter. He showed the Angels organization what he can do in the rotation."
After back-to-back losing efforts, DeLoach was sent to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Angels' No. 4 prospect Mark Sappington, as well as Yeiper Castillo and Elliot Morris.
On May 24 -- the day that would have been DeLoach's start day -- Castillo was tagged for five runs in 1 2/3 innings before the 23-year-old came in from the bullpen. The southpaw hurled 4 1/3 frames in relief, yielding a run on three hits.
Castillo was again set to be the starter against Modesto until the manager received a note on his desk indicating otherwise. So with his fastball and slider working, DeLoach made a strong case to take his rotation spot back.
"I think when you look at what went on tonight -- seven innings, season low in hits and season high in strikeouts -- that's pretty much how he pitched the entire first part of season," the manager said. "He understands his role. He's a back-of-rotation guy down here. He is going to take the ball every five days, pound the zone with two or three pitches [and] break some bats."
Between outings, the 6-foot-6 hurler has worked with Hocking and pitching coach Matt Wise to improve his pickoff move, specifically speeding up the process and utilizing a slide step. It paid off Thursday for the North Carolina native as he picked off his fourth victim of the season, catching Nuts right fielder Dave Kandilas in the third.
DeLoach (3-2), who always pitches from the stretch, allowed a baserunner in five of his seven innings, but that was not cause for alarm for the manager.
"I'm more concerned about when he gets a guy on, can he stay focused and stay with his rhythm," Hocking said. "He was able to follow Zach Wright, the catcher, and see the pitches being put down, glance at the runner and throw his pitches."
As a reliever, Castillo worked around two hits over two frames to close out the win.
Inland Empire's Wade Hinkle drove in two runs while Sherman Johnson, Cal Towey and Riley Good chipped in an RBI apiece.
Modesto starter Matt Flemer (4-5) was charged with four runs on eight hits over six frames for the fourth loss in his past five decisions.