In the two seasons that Class A Advanced Salem pitching coach Paul Abbott has worked with Dedgar Jimenez, he's seen the southpaw evolve from a thrower into a bona fide starting pitcher.
"He's coming off an eight-inning scoreless game in his last start and he's looked extremely confident and sure of himself," Abbott said. "He's used a four-pitch mix with upper-level command. When he falls behind, he's not afraid to come in -- he's doesn't give in."
Jimenez allowed two hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings Friday as Salem blanked Potomac, 5-0, on Friday at Haley Toyota Field. It was the third straight shutout for the Red Sox, who have thrown 27 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, both team records.
Gameday box score
Jimenez (10-3), who has not surrendered a run in his last 17 innings, became the first 10-game winner in the Carolina League.
"For the last two games, the key has basically been that his command has been spot-on," Abbott said. "He's commanding the fastball down. He's throwing it up for quality results. He's moving feet and he's pitching aggressively with his fastball instead of trying to pitch too much with his secondary [stuff]. His slider wasn't as great as the last start, but when it's not at its best it can miss barrels to produce soft contact. He can place it better now. It's been his wipeout pitch all season long, but he's moving it more efficiently."
The 21-year-old was 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA in nine starts with the Salem last year and had a 4.95 ERA through his first four outings this season. But with improved control, Jimenez has heated up with the weather, sporting a 0.82 ERA in three starts this month. In all, the left-hander has a 3.07 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 18 appearances, including 17 starts. During an All-Star season for Jimenez, Abbott believes this stretch in July is what stands out.
"He's pitched great games all year long, he's had some hiccups here and there," the former Major Leaguer said. "He's been our most consistent pitcher all year, he's basically been our best pitcher, our best starter. He's taken everything up to this point -- he's always applied it -- and now there's just confidence behind every pitch, purpose with every pitch.
"He's just becoming this fearless guy out there and becoming a complete pitcher, using all four pitches."
Top Nationals prospect Victor Robles greeted Jimenez with a leadoff single to start the first, but the Venezuela native retired the next 12 batters. Deploying his entire repertoire, he threw 55 of 92 pitches for strikes.
David Masters singled to start the fifth, but he got no further than first as Nationals No. 30 prospect Ian Sagdal lined to center and D.K. Carey bounced into an inning-ending double play. Abbott said he's noticed Jimenez has an uncanny knack to escape trouble with a calm demeanor.
"One of his best attributes is he doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low," Abbott said. "You don't see bad body language from him. He keeps fighting throughout the whole game. He knows he can get people out, he knows he can get ground balls, he knows he can pitch out of jams."
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound hurler issued one more walk in the sixth but set down six of the last seven hitters, four via strikeouts.
"If he was little bit older, at a higher level, he could have gone another inning pretty easily," Abbott said. "He's a young guy and he pitched eight innings last game. He was just as strong with the last pitch as he was with the first one."
Daniel McGrath yielded one hit and fanned four over two scoreless frames to complete the shutout.
"You throw three shutouts, you're extremely impressed," Abbott said. "They've all done a good job pitching aggressively. They've done a great job of staying in the moment, throwing strikes, sticking to the game plan and executing their stuff. Even the four games previous, we've been throwing the ball well."
Salem broke through in the sixth with five runs as Austin Rei smacked an RBI double and Tyler Spoon followed with a bases-loaded triple and scored on Austin Davidson's throwing error.