If you happen to catch Marcos Molina in action these days, you'll be witnessing the maturation of a young pitcher.
The Mets' 16th-ranked prospect allowed one hit and recorded a career-high with 12 strikeouts Friday night as Short-Season Brooklyn blanked Vermont, 7-0.
Molina (6-2) yielded just a leadoff single to Jose Brizuela in the bottom of the second inning. He followed that by striking out seven straight Lake Monsters and ended up facing three batters over the minimum in his 10th start for the Cyclones.
"He threw a lot of strikes, changed speeds, kept the ball down for the most part," Brooklyn pitching coach Dave LaRoche said. "He kept the hitters off-balance. They didn't get a lot of good swings at him and not a lot of well-hit balls. He pitched a very good game, as he's done all year.
The 19-year-old right-hander threw 89 pitches and lowered his ERA to 1.58, which ranks second in the New York-Penn League.
"He used a variety of pitches. He had a good breaking ball, he was changing speeds with that. His main pitch is his fastball," LaRoche said. "When he doesn't try to overthrow and just stays smooth, his fastball has good velocity, but it's very sneaky."
In his previous start on Aug. 9, Molina set a career high with 11 strikeouts against Batavia. In three outings this month, the native of the Dominican Republic has recorded 32 strikeouts over 21 innings.
"He's starting to use his off-speed pitches to set things up more," said LaRoche, who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1970-83. "At times, he would just try to rear back and try to challenge hitters. [He's] learning how to pitch instead of just throwing, and that's all part of the process, coming through the Minors."
Molina leads the league with 73 strikeouts and a 0.83 WHIP and has not allowed a home run over 62 2/3 innings. LaRoche thinks he needs to continue to use his secondary pitches to achieve greater success.
"Just keep building off of each start," the pitching coach said. "They're all good and they're getting better. I think they're getting better because he's using them more. He can go out there and pitch in a tough situation, he might have three or more pitches that he can throw and have confidence in them. That makes it real tough to hit."
Luis Rengel followed Molina and struck out the side in the eighth before Edioglis Villasmil gave up a hit in the ninth and finished off Brooklyn's league-leading eighth shutout.
Jhoan Urena slugged a solo homer and Mets No. 4 prospect Michael Conforto scored twice for the Cyclones.
Vermont starter Jerad Grundy fell to 3-6 after allowing a run on six hits over five innings.