Paul Richan usually needs one inning to determine which of his four pitches the opposing team is hunting.
Take, for instance, his last appearance. Working Sunday night at home against Lynchburg, the Myrtle Beach right-hander saw the Hillcats jump on his fastball and rattle off a trio of extra-base hits to take a two-run lead in the top of the first. Richan changed his approach on the mound. Instead of pounding fastballs in the zone early in the count, he threw his three off-speed pitches to get ahead, then caught the Hillcats by surprise with fastballs in different counts.
The 18th-ranked Chicago Cubs prospect wound up throwing the first complete game of his career, allowing two baserunners for the remainder of the game. It continued a recent trend of Richan's ability to evolve throughout an outing and get stronger the second and third time through a lineup.
"If things don't go your way, you've got to figure out a way to kind of regroup and regather and kind of look at every hitter a different way and see how they react to the pitches, and you can attack them the rest of the way," he said. "That's what I just plan on doing."
Richan, the Cubs' second-round compensation pick in the 2018 Draft, has emerged as an ace on the Pelicans' staff this season. He is tied for the Carolina League lead with nine victories, is third with a WHIP of 1.20 and has issued a paltry 17 walks in 82 1/3 innings.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder has won four of his last six starts, and two of those victories came after allowing big first innings.
In addition to the recent complete-game outing against Lynchburg, Richan allowed the first three batters to score on June 25 at Winston-Salem. He settled in after Steele Walker's three-run homer, retiring the next 13 batters in a row and getting through the fifth without allowing another hit.
His maturation on the mound took time to develop.
"In high school, to be honest with you, if I wasn't having a good outing, it wouldn't be a good outing," the alumnus of Hart High School in Newhall, California, said. "For me to be able to mature ... and find a different way to overcome those challenges and roadblocks and get through the outing with either having a quality start or just getting your offense back in the box … that's the mentality I had through college and I just want to keep that into pro ball, so that's what I've done."
Richan credits Nathan Choate, his pitching coach at the University of San Diego in his sophomore and junior seasons, for helping accelerate that maturation process. The key was honing Richan's emotions and learning to balance them in order to stay composed on the mound during the good times and the bad.
2019 MiLB include
"He really drove home the whole mental side of the game for me," Richan said. "He could tell that I was a very emotional and competitive pitcher, and he taught me how to overcome those early struggles, if there were some, and obviously if there weren't, just to keep that competitive nature and still attack guys."
Richan went 9-8 with 174 strikeouts in his two seasons under Choate, and that emergence caught the Cubs' attention.
He made 10 appearances with the Eugene Emeralds of the Class A Short Season Northwest League last season before earning a promotion to the Cubs' Class A Advanced affiliate this season.
Richan is developing a four-pitch repertoire with the Pelicans, and those additional pitches have assisted in his ability to adapt throughout an appearance. His slider, which is in the mid-to-upper 80s, is beginning to move more, and his curveball is developing more vertical depth. His changeup is beginning to lose velocity, which will make it more effective when hitters are sitting on his fastball.
"I have to assess that and kind of see what they're waiting on, and then create a plan from there," he said. "Being a professional is being able to do that. I think I've done a pretty good job of doing that so far."
Coming in hot: Zach Jarrett grew up watching his father, Dale Jarrett, drive upwards of 200 mph on NASCAR tracks. The younger Jarrett is finding his own pace on the diamond. The Frederick Keys outfielder has recorded four multi-hit performances in a six-game stretch to raise his batting average 20 points to .315, good for third in the Carolina League. Jarrett's sizzling run began with a four-hit outing on July 10 against Carolina and continued in a three-game showing against Salem. On the tear, he's 8-for-14 with a home run, five RBIs and four runs scored.
Patience paying off: The Washington Nationals signed Aldrem Corredor as a 16-year-old international free agent in July 2012, and the organization has allowed the first baseman to develop at a steady clip. His growth is taking a strong step forward in his first full season at the Class A Advanced level. Corredor leads the league with 67 RBIs -- matching his total from last season -- and his eight homers are one shy of matching his career high set last season between stops at Class A Hagerstown and Potomac.
Adding to an impressive streak: Wilmington's Tad Ratliff has been one of the Carolina League's most reliable ninth-inning arms this season. He leads the loop with 18 saves in 21 chances and sports a 2-2 record with 1.59 ERA. Ratliff is two saves away from joining a long list of closers to reach 20 saves in league history. The Carolina League has boasted at least one closer reaching the 20-save mark in 31 of the last 34 years. Mike Soper holds the league single-season record, with 41 saves set for Kinston in 1991.