Buckel stays hot with dominant effort

Rangers prospect allows one hit, fans eight over 6 1/3 frames

By David Heck / Special to MLB.com | April 23, 2012 7:47 PM ET

Cody Buckel said he only had half of his pitches working Monday night. Tell that to the Frederick Keys.

The Rangers' No. 11 prospect allowed just one run on one hit over 6 1/3 innings in his fourth start of the year, helping the Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans to a 7-1 drubbing of Frederick.

Buckel (2-0) fanned eight and walked two in the outing. The 19-year-old right-hander has struck out 29 and issued just eight free passes in 21 1/3 frames this season.

"I had probably half of the repertoire tonight," Buckel said. "The changeup wasn't really there, and the cutter was iffy. I had a good fastball in terms of locating it and a good slider and curveball to go with that. So I had three good pitches working tonight, and even though the other pitches weren't there, they were used effectively to make the other pitches look better."

After issuing a one-out walk to Jeremy Nowak in the first inning, Buckel retired the next 11 batters he faced -- six via the strikeout. His run ended in the top of the fifth, when Michael Flacco tripled to center field. The Keys' designated hitter then came around to score moments later on Kipp Shutz's groundout to shortstop.

"I left a cookie right over the plate and [Flacco] smacked in," Buckel said. "I've got to give credit to [center fielder] Jared Hoying, he almost made one of the best catches I've ever seen. I kept working and got the next guys out."

Buckel struck out Matthew Sweeney and induced a flyout by Joe Oliveira to get out of the frame, then worked a perfect sixth. He started off the seventh by getting Tyler Kelly to ground out, but was removed after issuing a walk to Aaron Baker.

"[Baker was] probably my last batter regardless," Buckel said. "I'm on a pitch count of 90 right now. That was my 93rd pitch. I think I went 3-2 on the batter before. There were a couple extra pitches I could've eliminated, but overall, I felt pretty good up to that 93rd pitch."

Chad Bell took over for Buckel and retired the only two batters he faced. Ben Henry then tossed a pair of scoreless frames to close the door on Frederick.

Christian Villanueva led the Pelicans offense with his first homer of the year and three RBIs. Six of Myrtle Beach's eight other starters recorded a hit in the game, while four others drove in one run apiece.

Selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft, Buckel posted a 2.61 ERA in 96 2/3 innings for Class A Hickory last year, striking out 120 and walking 27. So far this season, he has put together an 0.84 ERA that ranks third in the Carolina League.

The California native attributed part of that success to the work he put in during the offseason with good friend and MLB.com's No. 9 overall prospect Trevor Bauer. The two share a similar high-torque delivery and a long-toss routine that can reach up to 400 feet.

"Just going into an offseason workout program and working out with my buddy, Trevor Bauer," Buckel said of the reason for his success in the early season. "He taught me some things on how to keep a healthy arm throughout the offseason, so I'm coming in in midseason form."

Buckel said he has been friends with Bauer since his early teens, when he met the future first-rounder on a Junior Olympics team in Arizona. The two have kept in touch ever since.

"We ended up meeting one of the first days there and had a lot in common, so we just clicked," Buckel said. "We've been pretty good friends ever since. I talk to him just about every day, especially the days before I pitch or before he pitches. I pick his brain a little bit. He's always got a little bit of advice for me. We also talk about normal stuff, what movies are out and stuff like that -- he's a really good friend."

Buckel said the key to continuing to pitch well will be maintaining consistency in his program.

"I have my routine, my five-day routine," he said. "I've got to keep doing that regardless of what's happening. Hard work turns into luck and just keeps going. The results so far are pretty good, so I've just got to stay consistent with it."

David Heck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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