After Jay Groome's first start of the season went about as badly as it could, the return of the second-ranked Red Sox prospect to the South Atlantic League on Tuesday could hardly have gone any better.
"He was impressive. I was looking forward to this outing," Class A Greenville pitching coach Walter Miranda said. "After the outing in April when he got hurt, he came back and just gave up one single and one [walk]."
Gameday box score
The 18-year-old left-hander faced the minimum over five innings, piling up seven strikeouts en route to the victory as the Drive blanked Rome, 2-0, at State Mutual Stadium.
The 12th overall pick in last year's Draft dazzled in two Rookie-level starts and one Class A Short Season outing in his professional debut, but he exited his first start for Greenville on April 10 with a lat injury after surrendering nine runs on seven hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings. He made three rehab appearances in the New York-Penn League, throwing five no-hit frames on Thursday.
Video: Jay Groome finishes the fifth for the Drive
"After he got hurt, you just want him to get healthy and that way he can preform at his best. I think he was looking forward to the opportunity to be back where he started," Miranda said. "Now that he's 100 percent healthy, he can just be himself. That's what he did today.
"He had his 'A' game. He was excited to be in the game and he looked like he wanted to be on the mound -- he looked like it, the way he executed his pitches. He was throwing his fastball on both sides of the plate and executing his breaking ball. I was happy for him."
Groome struck out the first two Braves, including rehabbing Major Leaguer Sean Rodriguez, and retired seven in a row to open the game. Jordan Rodgers worked a five-pitch walk with one out in the third, but MLB.com's No. 34 overall prospect wiped the slate clean by getting Marcus Mooney to bounce into a double play.
Randy Ventura opened the fourth with a bunt single and moved up on a groundout by Rodriguez but was caught trying to steal third. Groome fanned No. 14 Braves prospect Cristian Pache, then turned in a 1-2-3 fifth, ending his night with another punchout.
"The single, even, I felt like it was an out, but it was a very close play," Miranda said. "But there was just soft contact. His fastball and his breaking balls were getting a lot of swings and misses. I thought his stuff looked pretty good."
Coming off the fifth, Groome had thrown 38 of 60 pitches for strikes. While there was no predetermined limit of five innings or 60 pitches, Miranda had seen enough for the youngster's second start at a full-season level.
"It was his first outing back after April and the way he was pitching, I just wanted him to finish on a good note," the pitching coach said. "He did everything he was supposed to do and I had no reason to send him back out. That way, we can start getting ready for his next outing."
Fellow left-hander Robby Sexton, a 2016 16th-round pick, took the ball in the sixth and threw four one-hit innings, striking out three, to pick up his first professional save.
"Oh, man, he just continued what Groome started," Miranda said. "That was impressive, and he was also very efficient. He only threw 46 pitches and he was very under control. His mechanics were great and he was working with a good angle. He didn't have a changeup earlier in the season, and he was getting swings and misses on it tonight. He's worked very hard."
Catcher Roldani Baldwin doubled twice and scored a run for the Drive.