Edwar Cabrera's 2011 season was brought to you by the letter K. But if the left-hander has anything to say about it, he'd much rather this season be brought to you by the number zero.
The reigning Minor League strikeout leader allowed two hits and fanned seven over seven shutout innings Saturday as the Double-A Tulsa Drillers squeaked past the Springfield Cardinals, 3-2.
The Rockies' No. 19 prospect and current Texas League Pitcher of the Week, is two starts removed from an eight-inning, one-hit performance in which he took a perfect game into the ninth. Cabrera (3-1) also was stellar in his season debut, allowing one run on three hits over six innings.
The common thread in the three starts in which Cabrera has given up one run or fewer? He hasn't issued a walk in any of them. And that's a better barometer of his success than racking up strikeouts, according to the 24-year-old southpaw.
"My pitching coach [Dave Schuler] told me not to focus on getting the strikeouts," Cabrera said. "Work on getting contact instead because that's how I'll be able to get deeper into games and keep my pitch count down. So I don't care about the strikeouts so much."
The tactic has done wonders for the native of the Dominican Republic over his first five starts. After striking out a Minor League-leading 217 batters over 167 innings between Class A Asheville and Class A Advanced Modesto last season, he's third in the Texas League with 29 strikeouts in 33 innings.
But because he's been able to keep the walks down, his 0.58 WHIP is by far tops in the eight-team circuit -- Midland's A.J. Griffin is second with a 0.82 WHIP -- as are his 33 innings pitched. His 1.64 ERA ranks third. Cabrera had a 3.34 ERA and 1.17 WHIP last season.
Cabrera faced the minimum in four of his seven frames and did not allow more than baserunner until the seventh. In his final inning, he hit Oscar Taveras and allowed a single to Kyle Conley before recording an out. But a meeting on the mound with Schuler helped calm the non-drafted free agent.
"He told me to focus on coming back in," Cabrera said. "Don't worry about the fastball too much. Just focus on keeping it down in the zone to try to get a ground ball."
Cabrera didn't get that ground ball, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around Xavier Scruggs' lineout. He finished the night with 94 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Rockies No. 20 prospect Kent Matthes provided all of the offense for the Drillers with a pair of homers and three RBIs.
Taveras, the Cardinals' No. 3 prospect, went 2-for-3 with a double to raise his average to .330 for Springfield, which has dropped eight in a row. John Gast (3-2) took the loss after allowing three runs on five hits over five innings.