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Flynn makes Opening Day strides04/04/2013 11:11 PM ET
By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com
Brian Flynn doesn't want to get ahead of himself, but the Jacksonville Suns left-hander thinks he might be on to something.
After his outing on Opening Night, the Jackson Generals probably agree.
Flynn struck out nine and allowed four hits over six shutout innings Thursday, outpitching Taijuan Walker -- MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect -- and helping the Suns defeat the Jackson Generals, 5-3.
Through the years, the southpaw's 6-foot-7 frame has been as much a curse as a blessing as Flynn has struggled to corral his mechanics. Beginning with a stint in the Arizona Fall League last year, however, Flynn thinks he's solved those issues.
"Not to jinx myself, but this is really, since the start of the Fall League and this spring, my mechanics are as good as they've been," the Marlins' No. 20 prospect said. "I'd have to say, in my own words, I think I've turned a corner. My mechanics aren't even in my head anymore."
Flynn (1-0) pitched for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the AFL, where he posted a 3.63 ERA over 22 1/3 innings with 18 strikeouts and seven walks. More importantly, he worked with Marlins Triple-A pitching coach Charlie Corbell, who helped the 22-year-old lengthen his stride and, after years of struggles, find consistency on the rubber.
"I improved more in that month than I have during any other time frame in my career," Flynn said. "My mechanics have been holding me back since I was younger and in college. It was the biggest step in the process for me. If you're off on the mound, it magnifies things at the plate.
"Since the Fall League, I've been getting my legs under me and everything and it's helped a lot. Being so big, when I was younger and in college, I was erratic in the zone. I didn't get ahead and I walked guys because of it."
Making his first career Opening Day start, Flynn struck out the side in the top of the first, getting all three Generals swinging. Walker countered with three strikeouts in the bottom of the first, although he allowed a solo homer to Flynn's batterymate, J.T. Realmuto.
Flynn escaped a two-out, man-on situation in the second by fanning Jack Marder, then retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth before recording two more strikeouts in the sixth. The Wichita State product needed only 71 pitches to get through six innings, throwing 53 strikes.
"What more could you ask for from an Opening Day start?" Suns manager Andy Barkett said. "He could have gotten big league hitters out tonight."
Flynn said his slider was his best pitch Thursday, but he was more elated at the effectiveness of his changeup, an offering he hoped to sharpen in Spring Training. He guessed that he threw it seven or eight times against the Generals and was thrilled with the results.
"[Seven or eight times] is a lot for me," said Flynn, who was acquired from the Tigers with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly last summer for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. "I threw it in good counts. My slider was working well, so I went to that more, but I thought the change was good. I was able to throw it for strikes early and it was easy to build off that.
"That's always been the problem with my changeup. I could get a lot of movement, but I couldn't keep it in the zone. I think now I'm starting to do that.
Walker (0-1), the Mariners' top prospect, allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over five innings. The 20-year-old right-hander recorded eight strikeouts.
Derek Dietrich, Miami's No. 9 prospect, and Realmuto (No. 12) homered, with Realmuto going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a walk.