P.J. Walters has had 10 Major League stints, played across five Minor League levels and changed organizations four times, but one thing that has remained constant is his biggest motivation: his family.
"They stay behind me, no matter if I'm pitching good or pitching bad," the 29-year-old right-hander said. "When I walk out the clubhouse doors, they're always there smiling."
On Saturday night, his wife, Brittney, and kids Tripp and Elizabeth cheered on Walters as he allowed one hit and recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in Double-A New Hampshire's 4-0 blanking of Altoona.
In his first start since being traded to the Blue Jays organization, Walters (1-0) carried a no-hitter into the fifth and ended up walking three batters.
"I was ahead in the count most of the night, able to throw strikes and keep guys off-balance," he said. "Always good to get off to a great start. Hopefully, this momentum can carry into the next one."
The Alabama native worked around two walks and an error by third baseman Ryan Schimpf in the first, then didn't allow more than baserunner in an inning the rest of the night.
"Wasn't too big of a concern because even the ones that missed, they weren't too far off, they were close," Walters said of the walks. "Pretty much when I'm ahead of the count, I do well; and when I'm behind in the count, I don't."
Walters began the season with the Royals' Triple-A affiliate in Omaha and went 1-4 with a 7.97 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts. On Monday, he was dealt with outfielder Melky Mesa to the Blue Jays for cash considerations.
"It's been a kind of crazy week. I found out I was traded, then I was on the plane the next morning," Walters said. "Packing up with the family is tough. It's never easy, but [Brittney's] pretty good about getting everything handled and taking off."
Amid all changes and with an eye on returning to the big leagues, Walters is looking to be more consistent on the mound. Selected by St. Louis in the 11th round of the 2006 Draft, he reached the Majors in 2009 and is 6-10 with a 6.28 ERA in 40 appearances with the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Twins.
"Like I said, I do well when I get ahead in the counts, but when I get behind -- in the Majors, they kind of make that hurt a little more," he said. "So having those games when you pitch OK, I've had games when I pitched bad, so I need be more consistent."
Schimpf atoned for his earlier miscue by driving in two runs, while Mesa doubled twice and scored twice in his second straight two-hit game for the Fisher Cats.
Curve starter Nick Kingham (1-6), the Pirates' No. 8 prospect, lost his sixth straight decision after yielding four runs -- two earned -- on eight hits while striking out seven over seven frames.