Ryan Borucki made his first start of the season on April 10. He didn't make another for 10 more days as Triple-A Buffalo slogged through one of the Minor Leagues' most weather-warped opening months. Now that he's getting regular work, he's warming up right along with the spring.
The Blue Jays' No. 8 prospect went a season-high seven scoreless innings, scattering two hits and striking out five as Buffalo finished off a four-game sweep of Syracuse with a 6-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
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"I just really had my fastball command," Borucki said. "I was working it down, got a lot of ground-ball outs, which is always good. Whenever you keep it out of the air, it's always a good thing. I had my offspeed. My slider was working to get ahead of hitters. I was putting them away with my fastball and my changeup, which are usually my go-tos. I just mixed my pitches pretty well today and the results showed."
Buffalo's lefty didn't face much on the basepaths through his fifth outing of the year. Borucki walked Jose Marmolejos with two outs in the first inning and allowed a single to center field by Mark Reynolds, but stranded the pair at the corners. The final out of the first started a run in which the 2012 15th-rounder retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced, including a 1-2-3 inning after his team put up five runs in the bottom of the second.
Video: Buffalo's Borucki finishes off seven scoreless
All nine Bisons went to the plate in the second with the first four reaching and scoring. Darnell Sweeney and Roemon Fields ripped two-RBI singles to center in the frame, and Dwight Smith Jr. capped the inning with a run-scoring single.
"When your team scores a lot of runs, it's your job to try to get us right back in the dugout and have that shutdown inning," the Mundelein, Illinois native said. "As a pitcher, I feel like you just need to really focus on every pitch that inning because those are important innings to get the momentum of the game, keep that momentum in your dugout. I was just trying to slow everything down, focusing pitch by pitch and just trying to locate every pitch I could.
"After that, the game kind of started flowing. There wasn't really a lull in there after that."
Not only was it Borucki's longest start of the season, it marked the southpaw's first scoreless outing of 2018 as well, dropping his ERA from 5.95 to 4.39. With the exception of his debut season, Borucki has been promoted midseason each campaign. Last year culminated in one start for Buffalo, a shutout effort over six innings on Aug. 31. That experience and a wild first month have given the 24-year-old much to draw on.
"Last year was definitely a crazy ride," said Borucki, who made 19 appearances for Class A Advanced Dunedin and seven with Double-A New Hampshire in 2017. "I just feel more comfortable. Coming in this year after having that one start, I had a little more comfortability with it, but after these last four, getting through April, I'm getting a lot more comfortable on the mound."
Buffalo had 10 games postponed or canceled by rain, snow and cold last month, but now that Borucki has made his last three starts on regular rotation, he's getting his feet under him.
"Obviously at the beginning of the year we had bad weather, couldn't really stay in a routine," he said. "Now we're finally starting to pitch every five days, so now I'm starting to get my rhythm. My pitches are getting better. Everything is getting better. I get to lift on my days that I need to, do all the work that goes in-between my starts. That's the biggest thing, being comfortable again and being able to stay on schedule."
Borucki spotted 64 of his 97 pitches in the strike zone and generated 10 outs on the ground to four in the air.
"I really tried to tell myself to focus pitch by pitch, don't let the game get too fast," he said. "Hopefully my next outing, I can do the same thing and hopefully get the same results and we get another win and can keep this win streak rolling."