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PIO notes: Walters having his way08/11/2011 12:27 PM ET
By Greg Rachac / Special to MLB.com
Blair Walters is a confident, headstrong competitor, but even he is surprised by the brilliance he's displayed in his first professional season.
"Definitely, yeah," said the left-handed starter of the Great Falls Voyagers. "I believe in myself to do well, but being undefeated as long as it's gone, I think that has surprised anyone's expectations."
An 11th-round pick of the White Sox in the 2011 Draft, Walters has baffled Pioneer League opponents all year.
Walters is 7-0 in eight starts and boasts a league-leading 2.25 ERA. He leads all starting pitchers with 53 strikeouts in 48 innings and has walked only nine. His WHIP is a measly 0.94.
He didn't earn a decision in his first two outings of the year but has won all of his appearances since, dating back to a July 4 victory against Helena.
The six-foot, 200-pound Walters hasn't thrown fewer than five innings in any start during his seven-game winning streak.
But those are only statistics.
Perhaps Walters' most impressive attribute is the way he challenges hitters. It's a trait Voyagers manager Ryan Newman loves.
"He's a competitor. He doesn't back down," Newman said. "He's faced some really good hitting teams, and he's shut them down. It's really impressive.
"What more can you ask from a guy? Every time he gets out on the bump, we know we have a really good chance to win."
Walters is a converted reliever who had success coming out of the bullpen in two seasons at the University of Hawaii. As a senior this past spring, Walters won a team-best seven games in 27 appearances and at one point didn't allow an earned run in seven consecutive outings.
But when he joined the Voyagers, Walters needed to work doubly hard to meet the demands that come with being a starter. And he admits it was tough.
"It was a big change," Walters said. "I hadn't started at all during the season [at Hawaii], so instead of being ready every single day and pitching one or two innings, I had to get my arm in shape.
"Getting used to building my stamina was the hardest part."
Walters wields four pitches in his arsenal -- fastball, curve, changeup and a reconditioned slider. He's put the latter to especially good use.
"Everything's working," he said. "I've got good command of my pitches. I've been on the same page with my catchers, the defense has played well and the offense has been there for me. Everything is just clicking."
Newman says Walters will move up quickly through the White Sox organization, and the way Walters has dominated the Pioneer League lends itself to that notion.
But right now, Walters is having fun right where he is.
"I hope to finish strong, whether I move up or stay here," Walters said. "It doesn't matter to me. I want to have a good time and keep playing well, and go from there."
Streak snapped: Missoula's Eric Groff had his club-record 24-game hitting streak snapped in a 5-2 loss at Great Falls on Monday. Groff went hitless for only the fifth time in 41 games this season.
Big loss: Orem slugger C.J. Cron left Sunday's game with a dislocated kneecap. Cron was hitting .308 with a league-high 13 home runs and 41 RBIs. It is not yet known how long Cron will be out of the lineup. He is also expected to have shoulder surgery this offseason.
Stingy 'Stangs: Billings has put together the most remarkable run of any pitching staff in the league. The Mustangs threw three straight shutouts and 30 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings prior to their 4-1 victory over Great Falls on Wednesday.