Cory Abbott sat in the dugout Friday night and took mental notes as each Fort Wayne batter took his at-bat. The Cubs' No. 28 prospect noticed a uniformed approach and sought to expose when he took the bump 24 hours later.
His plan was effective, to say the least.
Abbott notched a career-high 11 strikeouts and turned in six scoreless innings, allowing a pair of hits and two walks, in Class A South Bend's 5-4, 10-inning loss to the TinCaps on Saturday at Parkview Field.
Gameday box score
"I kind of looked at what they were hitting," the 22-year-old said. "It seemed like they were more low-ball hitters. That's what their approach was. They were fastball first. So my goal today was to execute up in the zone, and it seemed to work.
"You think about a plan the night before, what you're trying to do. You visualize, go through it. Today, especially after the first inning, seeing everything, all the fans are there. You block it out and start [being] a little bit more tunneled thinking about the hitter and zoning everything out."
Abbott was dominant at times during his career night, using a combination of fastballs and curveballs to keep Fort Wayne off-balance. As the game wore on and the Cubs had a lead, he mixed in the changeup during the middle innings. He also received plenty of help from his catcher, Miguel Amaya.
The 2017 second-round pick ran into his first bout of trouble in the first, issuing a leadoff walk to Padres No. 17 prospect Jeisson Rosario. But he responded by striking out ninth-ranked Gabriel Arias, and Amaya caught Rosario stealing second for a double play. Padres No. 22 prospect Luis Campusano singled with two outs, but Abbott ended the inning by getting Luis Almanzar looking.
Abbott retired six in a row until he walked Rosario again with two outs in the third. The result resembled a déjà vu, with Amaya -- the Cubs' 10th-ranked prospect -- again throwing out Rosario trying to swipe second.
"I try to give him the best chance to throw guys out," Abbott said. "I try to change my timing, so that it disrupts the hitter and also the runner -- different looks, different pickoffs. I really want to make them uncomfortable."
Campusano singled off Abbott with one out in the fourth, but he was the last baserunner against the 22-year-old. A passed ball moved Campusano to second, marking the first time the TinCaps got a runner into scoring position. But he buckled down and fanned Almanzar and Justin Lopez to end the inning.
Abbott wouldn't say he became stronger during the game. Rather, he insisted a "more relaxed" presence overcame him as the night wore on.
"I felt like my fastball was working well," he said. "I was just letting it do its thing and relying on it, I guess. I wouldn't say it was even stronger than when I came on the first, it was just relaxed. Let it flow and whatever happens, happens."
Abbott set Fort Wayne down in order in the fifth and sixth, retiring the final eight batters he faced. The Loyola Marymount product ended his outing in style, striking out the side in the sixth. He threw 57 of a season-high 95 pitches for strikes and recorded three fly-ball outs against one groundout.
"I don't think I have any more confidence than what I had before this game," he said. "I trust my stuff. I trust myself, how I approach my bullpens, my long toss, just every day, it kind of stays the same. For me, I can always look at what I did well but also didn't do as well, which was slider command. And I would like a little more changeup command as well. So that's what I can take away from it and what to improve on in my next bullpen."
Campusano was the only TinCap to record a hit off Abbott. He finished 3-for-4 with three singles and a run scored. Arias delivered a walk-off single in the 10th.
"We still didn't get the win, so that's what's really in my head now," the San Diego native said. "For me, the biggest thing is win-losses than like the strikeouts and all of that."