Facing a former first-round Draft pick, Alex Colome dug deep and may have righted his season.
Colome equaled a career high with 10 strikeouts and gave up three hits over seven innings Friday as the Charlotte Stone Crabs blanked the Jupiter Hammerheads, 1-0.
Signed by the Rays as a non-drafted free agent in March 2007, Colome did not give up a hit until Jeff Dominguez led off the fourth inning with a single. He faced three batters over the minimum in his longest outing of the season and allowed only four balls to leave the infield in notching his first Florida State League victory.
"The downhill plane of the fastball set everything up for him," Stone Crabs pitching coach Steve Watson said. "Guys were swinging at the top of the ball and it just made his curve more effective. When you're commanding your ball down like that, it just makes you other pitches better."
Colome also struck out 10 on July 19, 2009 for short-season Hudson Valley en route to being named a New York-Penn League All-Star. The 22-year-old right-hander had struggled at Class A Advanced, carrying an 0-2 record and 7.64 ERA in his first four starts of the season.
"I think he was more relaxed tonight," Watson said. "He wasn't trying to force any issues and he was confident in his pitch selection. He has a tendency to overthrow his fastball, and that forces him to get behind in the count. Tonight he was able to stay ahead of the count and maintain his composure. I think that he's finally getting relaxed with himself in the league.
"I think he needs to take this, build upon this and learn that it is not about his velocity, but it's based more on command. This makes his whole entire game more effective because hitters have to be in swing mode in defensive counts and that helps his fastball because they are not going to be able to catch up to it in those counts."
Drew Leary, another free agent who signed with Tampa Bay last November out of San Diego State, earned his first professional save. Added to the Stone Crabs' roster to replace the injured Jake Thompson, he struck out four over two hitless innings.
"He came from a good college program and he seemed to be comfortable in that role tonight," Watson said. "What we saw in the eighth was significant enough that we felt we could send him out there in the ninth. He just went out there matter-of-fact and threw a zero for us."
Charlotte scratched out the game's lone run in the fourth. Greg Sexton and Brett Nommensen hit back-to-back singles to open the inning and advanced on a fly ball before Sexton raced home on a wild pitch by Jupiter starter Chad James.
Stone Crabs shortstop Hak-Ju Lee had a bunt single in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.
James (0-4), the Marlins' first-round pick in 2009, remained winless after yielding a run on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings.