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Gray, Gaviglio use changeups well in duel
Rockies prospect tosses five no-hit innings; Cards prospect fans 11
06/11/2014 12:21 AM ET
Jon Gray ranks fourth in the Texas League with a 1.06 WHIP over 64 innings. (Walter Barnard/MiLB.com)

For right-handers Jon Gray and Sam Gaviglio, the story of Tuesday's pitchers' duel was much the same: changeups, changeups and more changeups.

Gray -- the Rockies' top prospect -- logged five hitless innings for Double-A Tulsa, but the Drillers were ultimately outdone by Gaviglio and the Springfield Cardinals, who walked off with a 2-1 win on Jacob Wilson's solo homer in the ninth.

Springfield managed only two hits in the Texas League showdown, both home runs. The other long ball was a solo shot by Jonathan Rodriguez in the bottom of the seventh.

Neither Gray nor Gaviglio figured in the decision but not for lack of effectiveness. Gray struck out seven and walked three, slimming his ERA to 3.66. Gaviglio tied a career high with 11 strikeouts over seven innings, allowing one run while scattering six hits. Gaviglio last fanned 11 with Class A Quad Cities on July 4, 2012.

It was Gray's first hitless outing as a pro. He flirted with perfection on April 23, retiring the first 17 batters before allowing a single, and had given up at least two hits in every start since.

The 22-year-old right-hander also had been struggling of late. He surrendered four homers in his previous three starts while yielding 12 earned runs over 16 2/3 innings. The issue was fastball command, as the third overall pick in last year's Draft was punished for leaving heaters up in the zone.

His fastball command wasn't necessarily better Tuesday, but most of his misses were down or away instead of up. To compensate for the misfires, Gray went to his changeup more than usual, estimating he threw it 15 or 16 times out of 83 pitches.

"I had a lot of confidence to go with the changeups," he said. "I think I only threw one or two balls with the changeup, they were all in the strike zone. It was something where it had some depth on it. I got guys to swing on it and knock it on the ground."

Gray also said he and the Drillers staff discussed going out for the sixth inning and throwing 10-12 more pitches, but -- perhaps with thoughts of injured teammates Eddie Butler and Daniel Winkler in mind -- erred on the side of caution.

Gaviglio's effectiveness also was tied to his changeup, though the off-speed pitch is a more recent development for the 24-year-old right-hander.

He didn't have the changeup working in starts on May 26 and May 31 against Frisco, when he allowed 11 earned runs over 10 1/3 innings. Gaviglio said he sharpened his mechanics a bit after those outings, slowing his delivery down the mound.

But the biggest difference has been the changeup, a pitch with which he thinks he's finally turned a corner.

"I think I'm holding it a little looser and just trusting it," he said. "It's something I haven't really used. I've struggled with it in the past. I'm starting to get more confident in it, throwing it for strikes.

"The last two starts, I've been using it more. It's nice to have. I could go to the changeup to righties and lefties."

His last outing was a step in the right direction as he gave up a run on six hits over six innings at Arkansas. Tuesday night was something else, though. Gaviglio fanned two batters in the second, third and fourth innings, then struck out the side in the fifth.

The Oregon State product limped a bit to the finish, allowing a single to Harold Riggins and an RBI double to Jared Simon in the seventh but still used the gem to get his ERA down to 5.50.

For Gaviglio, the outing was a confidence-booster for his changeup and a unique experience to go toe-to-toe with one of the game's top pitching prospects.

"It does put a little more pressure on you as a pitcher when the other guy throws up zeros as well," he said. "It was quite a game, just seeing that."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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