Jordan Balazovic was feeling the heat in his Florida State League debut on Sunday -- and it propelled him to a perfect outing.
Two days after being promoted to Class A Advanced Fort Myers, the 19th-ranked Twins prospect retired all 21 batters he faced as the Miracle blanked Palm Beach, 4-0, at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium to extend their winning streak to five. He recorded a season-high 10 punchouts.
Gameday box score
"Honestly, it was hot here today and I wasn't used to that coming from Cedar Rapids," Balazovic said, admitting he has no memory of ever tossing a perfect game. "I started to really feel it around the third and it kind of gave me a boost of energy. It helped me settle in and I just went from there."
The right-hander needed 15 pitches or fewer to get through five of his seven innings. The longest frame he had to endure was the second, when he threw 18 pitches. Balazovic needed 17 to get through the seventh.
"I didn't have to worry about putting a sweater on in between innings, [the heat] allowed me to stay loose and focused the whole time." he said. "It was actually a little different getting used to my breaking ball. It was sticking to my hands a little more and I didn't really have it in the beginning. But I started spinning a couple in my warmup pitches and got a feel for it as the game went on, and it just kept getting better."
Of the 11 outs the 20-year-old recorded that were not strikeouts, only five traveled beyond the infield. He threw 62 of a career-high 95 pitches for strikes and didn't realize he hadn't allowed a baserunner until he returned to the dugout after the fifth.
"I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on. I was just going in there, doing what I can do to get the offense back up, and it wasn't until after the fifth when I heard the announcer say, 'No hits after five' that I realized what was going on," he said. "But other than that, no one said anything about it and everyone (in the dugout] was treat[iing me like it was any other game.
"My main concern was just not walking anybody -- just attack guys. I didn't want to get behind anyone because it's harder to pitch from there. So I still didn't really think about it, I just wanted to challenge every hitter."
Balazovic (1-0) opened the season at Class A Cedar Rapids, where he posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 20 2/3 innings in four starts. The 2016 fifth-round pick held Midwest League opponents to a .195 average and ranked seventh on the circuit with 33 whiffs.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Balazovic spent last year with the Kernels, compiling a 3.94 ERA with 78 strikeouts against 18 walks over 61 2/3 frames. He believes that stint in the Midwest League helped him on Sunday.
"Honestly, I had some nerves last night, but as soon as I put the jersey on today, it was just the same game," he said. "I know a lot of these guys from Cedar Rapids, with the exception of a few new faces, so they really welcomed me. And I recognized a lot of their guys from Peoria last year, so I just went out there and didn't try to do too much.
"It really wasn't anything different ... just the heat."
Drafted by the Twins, Balazovic opted to sign for above slot and defer his commitment to Auburn University. He spent his first two professional seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he threw 72 1/3 innings over 18 games, including nine starts.
2019 MiLB include
Right-hander Anthony Vizcaya relieved Balazovic in the eighth and, after retiring Zach Kirtley on a liner to center field, gave up a ground-rule double to Chase Pinder on an 0-2 offering. It was the Cardinals' only hit of the day as Vizcaya struck out three and walked one to notch his second save.
Balazovic wasn't the only Fort Myers player with a perfect day. Twins No. 16 prospect Ryan Jeffers went 4-for-4 with a solo homer and two runs scored, while top-ranked Royce Lewis doubled and drove in a pair of runs in his second straight multi-hit game. No. 5 prospect Trevor Larnach chipped in a pair of hits and 14th-ranked Jose Miranda capped the scoring with an RBI double in the ninth.
The Miracle have never thrown a perfect game. Their last no-hitter was pitched by Brad Thomas in 1999.