Bill Murphy first saw Framber Valdez pitch in 2016, when the No. 15 Astros prospect made his first two starts on U.S. soil with Rookie-level Greeneville. Watching him grow over three seasons has been a rewarding experience for Murphy.
"That's the cool part," the Double-A Corpus Christi pitching coach said. "As a coach, you always want to see the player grow as a human being and from the performance and pitching aspect, too, and see how they can develop. ... It's always nice to see someone mature over the years, and it's enjoyable to watch."
Valdez spun six scoreless innings, extending his streak to 14 frames, and tied a season high with 10 strikeouts in the Hooks' 2-1 victory over the Midland RockHounds on Friday at Security Bank Ballpark. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed three hits, walked three and threw 61 of 97 pitches for strikes.
Video: Corpus Christi's Valdez fans 10th batter
"He's been pretty focused the last couple of outings," Murphy said. "He's been able to put together a couple of strong performances and string them together, which has been very, very nice to see. His focus has been really good and he's executing his pitches. It's been really fun to watch, for sure."
Valdez (3-3) has a 4.26 ERA through 17 games, including 11 starts, in his second look at the Texas League. Last year, he earned a callup from Class A Advanced Buies Creek after compiling a 2.79 ERA but struggled with Corpus Christi, going 5-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 49 innings.
Turning in his third straight scoreless appearance on Friday, Valdez worked around walks in the first and second innings and, after a leadoff single by Jonah Heim, struck out three straight in the third. Skye Bolt punched a two-out single through the left side in the fourth, but the southpaw whiffed Tyler Marincov.
Gameday box score
Brett Siddall opened the fifth with a walk and moved to third via two groundouts, but Valdez stranded him there by fanning Stephen Wrenn. He shrugged off a single by Seth Brown in his final inning.
"It's really nice to see him pitch like that, honestly," Murphy said. "It was a really, really quality outing for him."
The native of the Dominican Republic signed with Houston as an international free agent for $10,000 at age 21. Lauded by MLB Pipeline for his low- to mid-90s two-seam fastball and power curveball, Valdez generates a lot of punchouts, striking out 10.29 batters per nine in 2018. He's not renowned for elite control or command, but his walks per nine innings has decreased significant from 2017 (4.22 to 2.78).
"He's attacking the zone a lot more, but I think that's just a confidence thing," Murphy said. "He's kind of getting his feet wet in Double-A and he feels comfortable and confident to go after guys."
Kit Scheetz struck out five in 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run, and Justin Ferrell entered with two outs in the ninth and worked out of a bases-loaded jam to earn his first Double-A save.
Lorenzo Quintana delivered an RBI double for the Hooks, and Ryne Birk tripled.
RockHounds starter Parker Dunshee (1-2) struck out seven and allowed two runs on three hits, picking up the loss.