Four runs scored in the first inning against Edward Cabrera in his first start of the season. None have scored since, and a repertoire firing on all cylinders coupled with a brimming confidence, has only made it more difficult for hitters.
The Marlins' eighth-ranked prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts, allowed two hits and faced one batter over the minimum over 6 2/3 frames Wednesday as Class A Advanced Jupiter blanked Bradenton, 1-0, at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Cabrera extended his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings and helped the Hammerheads snap an 11-game slide.
Video: Cabrera ties Jupiter record with 13th K
"Three plus pitches coming at you," Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius said. "You better be ready."
Bradenton's lineup apparently didn't get that message.
The right-hander began his historic outing by fanning Pirates No. 3 prospect Travis Swaggerty.
Cabrera struck out the side in the second and third before Swaggerty led off the fourth with a double to right field for the Mauraders' first hit. Jupiter's defense picked up the right-hander, who'd hardly made them work to that point. Swaggerty, MLB.com's No. 82 overall prospect, almost broke the scoreless tie on Dylan Busby's two-out single. The ball was hit hard enough to left fielder Cameron Baranek, who nailed Swaggerty at the plate to end the inning.
The 21-year-old finished off his night by setting down the final eight batters he faced. He threw 62 of 88 pitches for strikes, tying the Hammerheads' record for strikeouts in a game set by Marlins No. 17 prospect Jordan Yamamoto last June 20. Most of all, his propensity for finding the strike zone during the first month of the season has led to the early success.
"He's in the strike zone," Cornelius said. "When you're throwing quality stuff in the strike zone like the way he is, the hitter has to cover up and down with velocity, cover down with the changeup, then all of a sudden he drops the curveball on you, too, starting in the same plane as the high fastball. It really makes it difficult to hit."
Gameday box score
Cabrera's control of his curveball makes the pitch a weapon, Cornelius said -- he can get it over for a strike and throw it off the plate to generate a swing-and-miss opportunity. The 70-grade fastball typically sits between 95-97 mph and can touch 99 with maximum effort. But the changeup, which only rates a 45 on the scout's 20-80 scale, might be his best pitch. At least his pitching coach thinks so.
"The changeup is devastating," Cornelius said. "His changeup was 91 to 93 [mph] tonight with split-type action at the zone. It's a plus pitch. You just see righties and lefties swing over it, like you're thinking fastball, then all of a sudden the ball disappears."
Cornelius surmised that the lower grade on the offering could be because scouts thought it was a two-seam fastball, given the velocity of the changeup, which topped out at 95 mph, according to the Major League veteran.
"I don't know if [scouts] caught him on a bad night or something, because I have not seen anything that made me think he had problems with the changeup in the past," he said. "It's just a quality pitch. It's been a plus pitch from the first time I saw it in Spring Training."
Cabrera allowed four runs while recording one out in his season debut on April 5 before he hunkered down to limit the damage and turn in 4 1/3 innings.
"He was excited. I think he had first-night jitters," Cornelius said. "He was overthrowing. Just letting him settle in. And we talked to the whole staff about it. It looked like there was a little bit of trying to do more than he needed to. Sometimes you just need to let your body work. That's what he's been doing and the results have been very good."
The 6-foot-4 native of the Dominican Republic reeled off back-to-back scoreless outings before Wednesday's gem.
2019 MiLB include
"The approach we take with all of our guys is just one pitch at a time," Cornelius said. "It doesn't matter what happens behind you, if there's an error, if there's a hit, a home run, it's one pitch; last pitch is gone, focus on the next pitch. He's done a good job of doing that. Every one of his pitches he looked like he was locked in [Wednesday]. There were a couple of times he came out of the delivery really trying to overthrow. When he does, that's when he loses command. He has been able to back down, stay within himself and make an adjustment."
As a player who could be a college junior, it's a sign of maturity on the mound. It's also an indication of gaining much-needed experience. The Marlins signed Cabrera for $100,000 in 2015. He spent the following season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and has climbed up the ladder since, joining Class A Short Season Batavia for 2017 and Class A Greensboro in 2018 before heading to the Florida State League this spring.
Through four starts, Cabrera is tied for fourth on the circuit with 31 strikeouts.
Marlins No. 12 prospect Jose Devers drove in the game's lone run with a single to left in the fifth.