After illustrious high school and college careers, many players can struggle for the first time in the Minor Leagues. And how they bounce back from those rough games speaks volumes about their future success.
Following a season debut in which he allowed five runs over five innings, Oakland's Joe Michaud allowed four hits over seven frames as short-season Vermont blanked Tri-City, 6-0.
"I felt good. It was coming after a rough first start, so I was trying to throw strikes and keep them off balance. I was throwing the two-seam fastball and just letting them put it in play," the right-hander said. "I didn't want to mess around too much or try to get too cute. Fastball was working, so I stuck with that."
The 23-year-old struck out two without a base on balls over a career-high seven innings. Michaud has yet to issue a walk this season, though he did hit Jose Solano in the fifth. Although the Connecticut native dealt with a base runner in each of the first five frames, the ValleyCats didn't reach third once -- something Michaud attributes more to the man catching the ball than the one throwing it.
"Andy Paz, my catcher. Probably three out of three times, he threw out the runner trying to steal," the Bryant University product said. "I thought it would be easier to get a guy on just so he could throw the runner out."
After catching three stealing Wednesday, Paz has thrown out four of six would-be base stealers this season.
A starter in college, Michaud began last season in the Lake Monsters rotation, but after an arm injury sidelined him for a month, the 6-foot-4 hurler joined the Arizona League Athletics as a relief pitcher. Now back as a starter, Michaud is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA over two starts.
The 2013 Draft pick is part of a Vermont pitching staff that has not allowed a run in its past 23 innings and a rotation that has only issued one walk over 34 frames.
"All of our starters don't really walk batters," Michaud said. "They just command the zone and we have a great bullpen and great defense, [success is] not solely in pitching. If the pitcher puts the ball in play, the defense is there to get the out."
With a New York-Penn League-leading .265 average, the Lake Monsters posted six runs on 13 hits. Ben McQuown collected three hits, including an RBI triple, while Ryan Huck also tripled and drove in two en route to Vermont's 700th win in club history.
"That definitely makes [the start] a little more special," Michaud said of the milestone victory. "Hopefully we can add to it."
Tri-City starter Austin Chrismon (1-1) yielded five runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits over five frames.