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Esch dominates for Grasshoppers08/21/2012 1:01 AM ET
By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com
Minor Leaguers, above all else, want to know they're making progress. Movement and promotions are the ultimate sign that work has paid off.
Jake Esch is glad to finally be seeing some of that.
The Class A Greensboro right-hander had perhaps his best start as a professional Monday, spinning seven one-hit scoreless inningsin a 5-1 victory over Lexington. He struck out eight and walked three.
It had been a frustrating start to the year for the Georgia Tech University product, who ended last season in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League. He began this year in extended spring training and then returned to Jamestown when play began in June.
"It's been a huge year. I went to extended, was languishing in Florida for a couple hot months. It's tough to do that," he said. "To have that daily grind and go back to where I finished up last year wasn't what I wanted, but God has a plan and blessed me when I got up here."
Esch earned his first callup to a full-season league a little more than two weeks ago. In his first 11 2/3 innings at the new level, he was scuffed up for 11 runs -- eight earned.
But Monday night, everything felt right for the 11th-round pick from last year's Draft.
"I had a couple rough ones to start out with the new level, get used to new strike zones and new hitters. Just wanted to settle down and put it together," he said. "The fastball -- I was locating it. Just one of those nights where I put it where I wanted to and they didn't hit it hard. The curveball [worked well]."
The St. Paul, Minn. native began last season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in seven innings before the move to Jamestown. He made eight appearances for the Jammers, recording a 4.63 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.
After his time in extended spring training to begin this season, it was back to Jamestown. The 22-year-old found consistent success, posting a 3.16 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks in 37 innings.
"Extended was [ultimately good] for me. You learn more from failure than success," he said. "Spring Training was a failure, extended was a failure ... then I finally got up there and felt comfortable with where I was and ran with it."
Esch is now 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA for the Grasshoppers in 18 2/3 innings. He said he's most excited to place himself in Greensboro's hunt for the South Atlantic League postseason.
"Especially with a team that's making a playoff push, they're looking for guys to step up," he said. "I want to do whatever I can to help the team. Just happy and excited to move forward."
Matt Smith went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and James Wooster added a solo shot to provide Esch with the bulk of his offensive support.