This time of year always brings back good memories for Albuquerque Isotopes right-handed reliever James Farris.
Five years ago, the then-20-year-old sophomore took the mound in Omaha with the chance to lead the University of Arizona to its first College World Series championship in 26 years.
"That experience, I wasn't expecting it, first off, but it was a good experience," said Farris, who was the Wildcats' No. 3 starter that season. "There were 24-26,000 people in the stands. It was probably the closest atmosphere [possible] to a Major League stadium."
Farris left with the game between Arizona and defending champion South Carolina tied 1-1. The Wildcats then scored three runs in the ninth to win.
"Just being able to get through that, it's just a confidence booster, really," said Farris, who now ranks as the Colorado Rockies' No. 28 prospect.
Farris was drafted in 2014 in the ninth round by the Chicago Cubs. They immediately moved him to the bullpen. It proved to be a fairly easy transition.
"I think it's a lot easier to go from starting to bullpen than it is to go from bullpen to starting," Farris said. "I still have all three of my pitches that I originally did. The main thing is the preparation is different. Starting you have a set day and a set preparation day. With the bullpen, you have to be prepared every single day.
"That was the biggest thing for me, just being prepared and having a routine. I finally have kind of honed in on my routine."
Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said that routine and the work that went into it is quite apparent.
"My early impression of Farris is he knows exactly what he's doing," Hill said. "He knows exactly what he's going to do and the expectations that he has of himself are really high. He throws every pitch with intention. Those are pretty good ingredients when we're talking about creating a Major League pitcher."
Farris said he also enjoys the adrenaline rush of pitching out of the bullpen.
"I think that's what keeps a lot of guys in the game," he said. "Especially in high [tension] situations, whenever you can complete it, that's just a high that you get, like a runner's high, it's a pitcher's high. I think everybody is looking for that."
Farris came over to the Rockies organization in a trade for righty Eddie Butler in February, just before the start of Spring Training.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," he said. "I was working out in the Cubs' facility [in Mesa, Arizona] and then I got the phone call, so I literally just drove 20 minutes up the road. It's not something you're prepared for. Guys say you want to stay with one organization your whole career, but for me it's been easy. Everyone in the Rockies [organization] has made it a really easy transition."
Farris started this season at Double-A Hartford, racking up nine saves in 10 chances and posting a 1.45 ERA in 17 games. It's been a tougher run in Albuquerque's altitude, where Farris has gone 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in nine games.
"I think maintaining your mentality every time you go out there and try to block out any kind of distractions [are key]," Farris said. "One thing you don't want to do is plateau. You want to get better as the season goes on. I think the best players do that."
Moving on up: With all of the recent promotions to Oakland, the Nashville Sounds required some reinforcements from Double-A Midland. The most notable is infielder Yairo Munoz, the Athletics' No. 10 prospect, who was hitting .316/.348/.532 with six homers and 26 RBIs for the RockHounds.
Moving on up ever so briefly: Reliever Eduardo Paredes' strong season for the Salt Lake Bees earned him a promotion to the Majors for the first time over the weekend, though he did not appear in a game before being sent back to Utah. The Los Angeles Angels' No. 15 prospect has gone 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA and one save at Triple-A while striking out 26 batters in 25 1/3 innings.
Catching on: The Iowa Cubs' Victor Caratini is one of those catchers whose bat is so good, he gets to play another position to keep it in the lineup. With 39 starts behind the plate and 23 at first base, Chicago's No. 12 prospect has hit a robust .338/.380/.527 with eight home runs and 54 RBIs.