Class A Great Lakes pitching coach Bobby Cuellar glanced at the scoreboard as Alfredo Tavarez walked off the mound in the third inning and saw a big zero in the hit column for Lake County.
The former Major Leaguer was more than pleased with how the right-handed Dodgers prospect made use of his time during his month away from the team. In his first appearance with the Loons since April 19, Tavarez held the Captains hitless over five scoreless innings, striking out four and walking three, en route to Monday's 14-5 win at Classic Park.
Gameday box score
The work the 20-year-old put in at extended spring training in Arizona was evident. "Everything you need to become a pitcher," Cuellar said. "And today, he showed it off."
The pitching coach said the 6-foot-5 prospect commanded his fastball while working in his changeup and mixing in a couple curveballs.
"Our pitcher came back in better shape with a better idea and a very aggressive attack," Cuellar said.
Tavarez walked eighth-ranked Indians prospect Will Benson on four pitches with one out in the first inning, but quickly rebounded with strikeouts of No. 18 prospect Oscar Gonzalez and No. 5 Nolan Jones to get through the frame.
In the second, he worked around a one-out throwing error by shortstop Moises Perez that put Dillon Persinger on base. Tavarez picked off Persinger after striking out Ulysses Cantu on three pitches.
Another one-out walk in the third -- this time to Todd Isaacs, who stole second -- proved to be the only time the Dominican Republic native pitched with a runner in scoring position. But he coaxed a flyout from Jesse Berardi and got Benson swinging to terminate the threat.
Tavarez worked a 1-2-3 fourth and retired the first two batters of the fifth before issuing a four-pitch free pass to Jose Vicente. Catcher Ramon Rodriguez bailed him out, though, catching Vicente trying to swipe second to end his outing.
"When he left here and when he got there, it was mentioned to him that when he comes back, he should be ready to do all the things he needs to do," Cuellar said.
One of the things Tavarez was tasked with was controlling the running game, which helped guide him through his start Monday.
"When a young guy learns to handle himself on the mound, he can handle anything," Cuellar said. "If you learn it now, you never have to worry about it."
The right-hander delivered 36 of his 62 pitches for strikes. Coming into the game, Tavarez had allowed six earned runs over 6 1/3 innings of relief across two appearances earlier this season. At the time, he was called up to be an extra arm during the early season's string of doubleheaders due to bad weather. Cuellar insisted Tavarez pitched better than his numbers indicated.
"Like I told him afterwards, 'You did it today. Remember all the work you did and keep on doing the best you can,'" the coach said. "That's what I would tell anybody. Baseball's a marathon. It's not a sprint."
From the moment Cuellar saw him play a simple game of catch, he saw a difference.
"The movement of the body, the throw, the circle of the arm was so fluid," he said. "When you see somebody throw it [like that], you can see the ball jump out of his hand really well. Kudos to the young man and the organization."
Carlos Rincon hit a three-run shot and a run-scoring double on a three-hit afternoon, driving in five runs for the Loons. Mitchell Hansen clubbed his first homer of the season and finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Jones smacked a three-run homer for the Captains.