Mike Soroka has a knack for first impressions. The Braves' third-ranked prospect had allowed one run over nine innings in his last three season debuts.
His introduction to the International League on Friday night wasn't much different.
MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect did not allow a runner past first base in five scoreless innings for Triple-A Gwinnett, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five in a 3-1 victory over Norfolk at Harbor Stadium.
Gameday box score
"[Catcher Rob Brantly] and I really got on the same page with a lot of fastballs and they were swinging, so we kept just giving it to them," Soroka said. "A lot of that is just trusting it and trusting that you're going to put it in a good spot and get some quick outs.
"Other than that I had a pretty decent command of two-strike fastballs and two-strike out pitches. I didn't make too many pitches over the plate that shouldn't have been over the plate."
The 20-year-old walked Alex Presley to open the game but got Drew Dosch to roll over a grounder to second for an inning-ending double play. Soroka admittedly entered the game with his usual bundle of nerves slightly amplified by the prospect of Opening Day.
"Just first one of the year ... I want to get out there and get a good start for the boys and just do a good job feeling it out early on," he said. "Then I got in a pretty good rhythm with Brantley. ... We were on the same page and we just kind of beat it up, set a good tone."
He got through a 1-2-3 second with a pair of strikeouts and pitched around a single by Luis Sardinas in the third. Ruben Tejada led off the fourth with a base hit up the middle but Soroka again coerced a 4-6-3 double play out of Dosch.
The Calgary native got Garabez Rosa to go down swinging and Andrew Susac looking before Orioles No. 13 prospect D.J. Stewart cracked a single into center field in the fifth. Soroka rebounded by whiffing Sardinas, completing his outing after just 60 pitches, 42 of which were strikes.
Video: Soroka ends on a high note for Gwinnett
"All of me wanted to go back out, no doubt," Soroka said. "But I also understood that I hadn't really thrown past four, five innings in Spring Training ... so it was definitely understandable. Hopefully, [I'll] keep it going to where I can use that full pitch count in the next couple outings."
Soroka's professional debut came in 2015 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he tossed a perfect inning. He started on Opening Day for Class A Rome in 2016, allowing a run on four hits with seven punchouts over four frames, then fanned seven more over five scoreless innings in his first outing for Double-A Mississippi last season.
The first-round selection in the 2015 Draft said he built some confidence prior to Friday night's start in his first big league Spring Training. He earned the call after compiling an 11-8 record with a 2.75 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 153 2/3 innings for Mississippi.
"You kind of build [confidence] a little bit and some of that is built on success, but a lot of that too is just trusting your stuff," Soroka said. "It's always easier to be a little more confident with your pitches when you know what they're doing right off the bat. You're not going out there wondering if you have your change up that day, you expect it to be there every day now."
He struck out five over five total innings in three Grapefruit League games for Atlanta and gained some invaluable wisdom from his veteran teammates.
"You get to talk to some older guys that have been around and you see why they've been around for so long," Soroka said. "A lot of approaches are a little different up there. You don't see so many swings early in the count at borderline pitches or sliders in the dirt or things of that nature.
"I think just kind of realizing how a more experienced hitter comes to the plate is a little bit of an adjustment to make, but it's definitely nothing that I can't handle."
Braves' top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. went hitless in four at-bats and 16th-ranked Dustin Peterson walked and scored a run for Gwinnett.