One year ago, Miguel Sulbaran was pitching for Class A Great Lakes, playing his first full season for the Dodgers since they signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela. Then in July, he was traded to the Twins for catcher Drew Butera. This past April, he was swapped once more for Eduardo Nunez and the Yankees sent him to Class A Advanced Tampa.
In the span of nine months, he was in his third different farm system with his third different set of teammates in his third different Minor League city.
But all the while, he's been the same old Sulbaran -- the one two organizations saw as adequate compensation for Major League talent.
"If it does affect him, he does a nice job of hiding it," said Tampa pitching coach Danny Borell. "He's done a nice job of acclimating himself here. It's not easy to meet a bunch of new guys, get used to a new organization and then pitch well, but that's what he's doing."
Sulbaran allowed only one hit over six scoreless innings in his best outing of the year in Tampa's 4-2 loss to Daytona. It was the fourth straight start, a stretch spanning 21 innings, during which the 20-year-old left-hander has allowed one run or fewer.
"He did a great job of working both sides of the plate with his fastball," said Borell. "He pitched in well, even against right-handers. You know, he only had to go to his off-speed [slider and changeup] sparingly because his fastball command was that good. And when that happens, you know it could be a special day."
It almost was an even more special day. Sulbaran carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning Sunday with only two walks and a hit batsman sprinkled in the game's first five frames. His flirtation with the feat ended with one out in the sixth when No. 10 Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach doubled on a line drive to right field. He finished out the inning and his outing by getting Bijan Rademacher and Willson Contreras to fly out.
With only three strikeouts in the half-dozen frames, Sulbaran had to rely heavily on contact Sunday, getting nine outs on the ground and five through the air. That's nothing new this season for him as he's recorded only 30 strikeouts in 49 2/3 frames this season with Tampa, after averaging at least 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings each of the previous three seasons at the Class A level or lower.
"He's a guy that needs to keep the ball down," Borell said. "And he can do that because he has some sink on his two-seamer. He just needs to attack hitters, try to get some contact. Because of that, he can be very economical. It's been the same thing the past few games here."
Since he pitched only one inning for Cedar Rapids before the Twins deal, the Yankees kept Sulbaran in extended spring training until May 4 to work up his innings. He struggled out of the gate in the Florida State League, going 0-1 with a 4.97 ERA in five outings during that month. But his recent results indicate a nice turnaround -- he's 1-0 with a 1.11 ERA and .211 average-against in five outings in June. His ERA for the season stands at 3.05.
"That was him getting into it here, getting used to being part of the Yankees, having new teammates, all of that," Borell said. "People would react differently to that, but he's done a nice job of settling in.
"The next thing is we need to just work on tightening up the breaking ball and hopefully get him a little more polished. But as long as he's locating down in the zone, that's where he's going to keep having success."
Daytona scored four times in the eighth off Tampa reliever Kyle Haynes. All four scored when Contreras singled with the bases loaded, driving in two runs and scoring two more on a throwing error by first baseman Matt Snyder.