The paths that led Florida State League left-handers Ryan Demmin and Rob Zastryzny to Bright House Field were very different, and that made it all the more unique when the pair put on a show Monday night.
Zastryzny -- a 2013 second-rounder -- set a career high with nine strikeouts, but in the end, it was Demmin -- an undrafted veteran who signed with Philadelphia out of an independent league last summer -- who got the win. The 26-year-old lefty scattered four hits over seven innings for Class A Advanced Clearwater in a 2-0 victory.
Demmin (1-0) struck out seven and didn't issue any walks. The outing was the left-hander's second with the Threshers since being sent down from Double-A Reading, where he had a 6.00 ERA in six appearances (three starts).
Demmin has worked hard to stay in affiliated ball at all. He signed with Washington out of Minnesota State Mankato as a non-drafted free agent in 2010 and pitched with the Nationals through 2012, reaching as high as Class A Advanced Potomac.
He was released prior to the 2013 season, and after attending a tryout, latched on with the Normal CornBelters of the independent Frontier League. He posted a 2.20 ERA over 98 innings with Normal, attracting the Phillies' attention late in the summer.
"One game, it was probably my worst outing in [independent] ball," Demmin said. "I was horrible and mad with my performance. We came back from the road trip, and the Phillies called me. I wasn't expecting to hear from the Phillies.
"Getting that phone call from the Phillies saying they want you, and being with a great organization, I couldn't have asked for better."
Demmin rewarded that faith Monday. The left-hander struck out the side in the first and retired the first nine batters he faced. He allowed two singles in the fourth, another in the fifth and a triple in the sixth, but stranded each of those runners and worked a 1-2-3 seventh to end the day.
"I've been working on being more consistent with my pitches and my delivery," he said. "Just really fine-tuning everything lately. Hopefully, I can get myself back up [to Double-A]."
Clearwater left fielder Brandon Short hit a solo homer off Zastryzny in the fourth. The solo blast was one of four hits allowed by the Cubs' left-hander -- an RBI double by Art Charles in the fifth accounted for the other run.
The 22-year-old didn't issue a walk over seven innings while his nine strikeouts set a season high for a Daytona pitcher. With three more strikeouts by righty Stephen Perakslis in a scoreless inning of relief, the dozen strikeouts tied the team's best output this season.
For Zastryzny (1-5), the outing was a welcome step in the right direction as far as efficiency, as the seven innings pitched also marked a professional high -- his previous best this season was 5 2/3 frames against Tampa on April 12.
The difference was mostly mental. The Missouri product and pitching coach Ron Villone have been working to sharpen the right-hander's pitch selection.
"I was mixing speeds really well," Zastryzny said. "I was kind of doing a better job of thinking out there instead of just seeing the finger and going with it.
"Usually, I'll run the counts a little higher, get to 3-2 or 2-2. I was fortunate today to get some at-bats over with first-pitch swings or 0-2 contact or strikeouts. I think it was probably more the mind-set. … Today, I went in with the mind-set to make pitches, execute and see how far I can get."
The Missouri product said he picked up strikeouts with each of his four pitches -- fastball, changeup, curveball and slider.
"The best mix was the fastball-changeup," Zastryzny said. "Our catcher, Willson Contreras, did a good job of keeping guys off balanced. Usually, I have in mind what I want to throw. Today, he did a good job of having it ready for me."
Despite taking the loss, Zastryzny said he enjoyed the contest, noting the back-and-forth between the hurlers made for quality baseball.
"Early on, they were chasing down in the zone, and then they made the adjustment," Zastryzny said. "So then I had to make an adjustment back at them. That's how the game went. We made an adjustment, they made an adjustment. I can't compliment the other pitcher enough. It made for fun baseball."