Matt Boyd entered this season with more endurance, strength and a very expensive piece of paper.
His offseason training while completing his degree at Oregon State has helped the Blue Jays prospect get off to a dominant start in the Florida State League.
On Friday night, Boyd recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts and allowed two hits over eight innings as Class A Advanced Dunedin blanked Clearwater, 5-0, at Bright House Field.
"Everything was working, all four pitches -- fastball, changeup, curveball, slider," he said after improving to 4-0 with a league-leading 0.29 ERA. "Derrick Chung, my catcher, caught a great game; he was calling a great game. He was keeping my tempo moving, had his foot on the gas, getting ahead of the count, which really helped."
The 23-year-old left-hander allowed a double to Harold Martinez in the second inning and a bunt single to Brian Pointer in the third but set down the next 16 Threshers.
"I feel great. I expect to go nine every time," Boyd said after the longest start of his two-year Minor League career. "Guys behind me are making great plays, been some key double plays and great stops. Defense has been flawless. They're fun to play in front of."
Boyd (4-0) made five appearances with Class A Lansing last summer after Toronto selected him in the sixth round of the Draft. Then it was off to Dunedin, where he pitched four hitless innings in his FSL debut on Aug. 17. But he ran into trouble in his next two outings, giving up six runs over six frames.
"Last year in the Florida State League, I felt pretty good on the whole. I just had one bad outing, one bad inning, really," the Washington native said. "[Then,] I figured out my routine, to take the good from each start and learn from the bad ones, and it's been awesome."
Boyd worked during the offseason to prepare his body and arm for his first full Minor League season. He built up his arm strength and durability so he would be ready to pitch in September and October.
The results have been impressive: Boyd leads the FSL with four wins, a 0.29 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 31 innings pitched.
After throwing approximately 85 pitches, the D-Jays ace turned the ball over to Efrain Nieves, who pitched a perfect ninth to finish off Dunedin's Minor League-leading sixth shutout. The Jays also sit atop the North Division with a 16-5 record.
K.C. Hobson drew four walks, including one with the bases loaded, while Marcus Knecht drove in two runs for Dunedin.
Clearwater starter Brody Colvin (0-1) gave up two runs on two hits and three walks with one strikeout over three innings.
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.