It was about time Josh Winckowski branched out a little more and trusted an alternate pitch.
So when Rookie-level Bluefield pitching coach Antonio Caceres challenged Winckowski to turn to his changeup more often, the right-hander was up to the task.
The Blue Jays prospect struck out 10 and allowed two hits over six innings Friday night as Bluefield blanked Danville, 1-0, at Dan Daniel Memorial Park.
"I can probably thank my pitching coach for that," Winckowski said. "I hadn't thrown my changeup much the last couple of outings, so he made that an emphasis."
The strikeout total was his highest in 14 games since the Jays selected him in the 15th round of last year's Draft. Winckowski (1-1) issued one walk and faced four batters over the minimum.
The Florida native said he had come to rely almost exclusively on fastballs and sliders, so mixing in more changeups was something he needed to do. He discovered the payoff for at least one night.
"After a couple of swing and misses, I started throwing it some more," he said.
Winckowski eclipsed by one his previous high for strikeouts, established on June 28 at Pulaski.
"I had stuff working [against Danville]," the 19-year-old said. "If the secondary stuff is working, usually, I can put guys away."
This marked the third straight start he's logged more than five innings, and Winckowski said he took more pride in that statistic than in his strikeout total.
"I think the last three have bene pretty solid," he said. "I've made a few adjustments and they've started to work out. I've moved [my grip] a little on the four-seam and a few mechanical things."
Winckowski spent last summer in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, going 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five games, including three starts. Had he not signed with the Blue Jays, he would have been headed to Florida Southwestern State College, a two-year program not far from his hometown of Estero.
"I think it was a lot of adjusting last year coming out of high school," he said. "This year, I felt a lot more prepared coming into the season and knowing what to expect.
"I think the Appy League is mostly about development. My pitching coach tells me all the time to just work on developing and getting better."
Winckowski ended up in the win column for the first time this season. Even though he knew he wasn't going back to the mound after the sixth, the Blue Jays scored on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh, and the run stood up.
"It took me long enough," he said of his first victory since Aug. 17.
Miguel Burgos, Kelyn Jose and Graham Spraker each worked an inning to clsoe out Bluefield's Appalachian League-leading fifth shutout.
Danville starter Odalvi Javier matched Winckowski for six innings, scattering seven hits and a walk while striking out two.