Chance Kirby was thrilled to learn of the characterization his new bosses have for him.
"I like being called a bulldog," the Tigers' 25th-round Draft pick said. "My dad used to say that's how I was as a kid. It's kind of who I am, just trying to grind it and go as far as you can. Don't leave it up to anyone else, just grind and grind until coach comes to get you."
That's what Kirby did on Wednesday night.
The right-hander was dominant in his New York-Penn League debut, recording a career-high 12 strikeouts while allowing one hit without issuing a walk over six innings as Class A Short Season Connecticut beat Batavia, 3-1, at Dodd Stadium.
Gameday box score
Kirby (1-0) signed for $1,500 as a senior out of the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he went 7-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts this spring. He gave up 48 hits, including two homers, struck out 62 and walked 18 over 65 innings. That followed a junior season in which he was 1-3 with a 6.91 ERA and went undrafted.
He acknowledged the small bonus drives him.
"I would be lying if I said it wasn't a [motivating factor] -- it definitely is," he said. "But I told myself all along, just an opportunity is all I need; moreso than the money, it's just an opportunity."
The 22-year-old needed only three appearances to show he was too polished for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He struck out 15 and allowed one earned run over 12 2/3 innings to earn a bump to the New York-Penn League.
Kirby retired the first eight batters, six of them on strikes, before allowing his only baserunner on a ground-ball single by Luke Jarvis. He then set down the next 10 Muckdogs, fanning half of them and punching out the side in the fourth.
The 5-foot-11 right-hander said he threw his fastball and circle-changeup to left-handers, and a fastball and slider to righties.
"Today was one of those days where all the pieces fell in place," he said. "Those days are few and far between. I was lucky to have that in my first outing."
He needed 77 pitches to breeze through his outing, something that did not escape the notice of Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield.
"Seventy-seven pitches in six innings with 12 strikeouts, that's amazing," he said. "That's hard to do against anybody."
Littlefield said Kirby's drafting was a testament to the scouting department. He said what particularly impressed the organization was not necessarily the righty's raw stuff -- his fastball is in the 89-92 mph range -- but his mound presence.
"Our guys liked his competitiveness," Littlefield said. "He's aggressive, he very much attacks hitters, and that points to some of the success tonight. He comes after the hitters."
Tigers director of player development Dave Owen agreed.
"He's just always in attack mode, fastball's 90-92 and he throws a pretty good slider," he said. "It's evident he had both those pitches tonight. He really attacks the zone. He's a bulldog type."
Kirby didn't need much help from his offense but got some in the second inning when 15th-round pick Nick Ames homered for the sixth time in 54 at-bats as a pro, his first for Connecticut. The Tigers tacked on two in the third on a double by Darwin Alvarado.
Batavia broke through in the seventh against reliever Drew Crosby on an RBI double by J.D. Osborne.
But the night belonged to Kirby, a humble Texan who said he was in a zone.
"I just try to do everything I can to get outs. I'm not going to throw 98 like some of these guys can. I throw off-speed for strikes and keep the hitter guessing. There's more than one way to do it," he said.