After getting a taste of the big leagues last year, Chris Reed is not messing around in his third season at Triple-A.
Reed was promoted from Double-A Jacksonville on May 8, and since May 17 when he surrendered seven runs against El Paso, the lefty has heated up by tossing five consecutive quality starts as part of a Zephyrs' rotation that has spun 11 quality starts over its last 19 games.
"I think I'm just filling up the strike zone right now, and I have a really good defense behind me," Reed said. "As long as I make them put it in play, I'll be in a favorable situation."
Reed's numbers during this stretch have been nothing short of impressive. His 0.84 ERA is second-lowest in the Pacific Coast League, while his 32 innings pitched are third-most. Reed also holds the lowest batting average against him (.120), and is tied for fifth in strikeouts (27) in the PCL over that timeframe.
However, the stats that are most surprising for Reed have almost nothing to do with the pitcher himself.
Over his first three quality starts this season, New Orleans did not score a single run with Reed on the mound. The scoreless innings streak reached 25 before the Zephyrs' bats finally came alive with a five-run sixth inning against Omaha on June 9, handing Reed his first victory in 11 career Triple-A starts.
"I know my offense will put them up in the game eventually, so I just try to keep it close and keep us in the game until that happens," Reed said. "Wins are a pretty selfish stat. As long as I continue to produce quality starts, I am ok with it, and I'm just going to continue to go out there and try to keep us in the game."
Reed is seeing his first action as a starter since 2014 when he was with the Albuquerque Isotopes. Last year, while bouncing between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers system, and New Orleans and Miami after coming to the Marlins in a midseason trade, Reed pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, going 3-2 in 40 appearances over 59.1 innings pitched.
While Reed is content with whatever role he's placed in, knowing that he is going to pitch every fifth day seems to have given him the comfort he needs to shine.
"All throughout pro ball I've started, with the exception of last year, so it's just been a matter of getting more reps and getting used to my mechanics," Reed said. "I think for me it's been more comfortable, but I'm just taking whatever they give me at this point."
Since coming over from the Dodgers last July for Grant Dayton, the Stanford graduate has become especially comfortable at Zephyr Field, posting a 2-1 record over 13 appearances, including four starts, with a 1.72 ERA. He is allowing opponents just a paltry .169 average against him inside the friendly confines.
Reed has been working tirelessly to refine his delivery and mechanics over the last two seasons in New Orleans, working with 2015 pitching coach John Duffy and now Storm Davis. Reed grew especially close with Duffy last year, as the first-year Z's pitching coach had been watching him throw since Reed's days in Double-A Chattanooga. Duffy was promoted to Triple-A coaching duties after a five-year stint with Jacksonville, which is when he first observed Chris Reed's potential.
"He basically cleaned up my delivery and made it more compact. These adjustments were all things that I had heard before, but he just made it simple enough," Reed said. "It's been a long process, but it's paid off so far."
More than anything else, Reed is focused on this season with New Orleans, as well as doing everything he can to keep the team's recent success alive. The Z's have won 12 of their last 14 games, and Reed truly enjoys his continued contributions to that accomplishment.
"It's a long season, and when you get good patches like these, you just try to ride them out," Reed said. "It's a lot of fun winning all of these games, so I'm just happy to be a part of it."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.