Dunning posts eight zeros for Barons

No. 6 White Sox prospect records season-high 10 strikeouts

Dane Dunning has struck out 96 batters in 82 2/3 innings across two levels this season. (Michael Wade/Birmingham Barons)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | June 14, 2018 10:44 PM

Since his promotion to Double-A in late April, Dane Dunning had been missing his trademark command.

That returned in a convincing manner Thursday as the right-hander struck out 10 without issuing any walks and allowed four hits over eight innings as Double-A Birmingham blanked Chattanooga, 3-0, at Regions Field.

It wasn't as though Dunning had been wild. After all, the No. 6 White Sox prospect has walked 3.4 batters per nine innings. But that's up from his stint at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, when he walked three total batters in 24 1/3 innings, and last year, when he issued just 36 free passes in 118 frames.

Video: Dane Dunning K's 10th

"I'd like to take credit for that good stuff," said Barons pitching coach Rich Dotson. "But he spent time with [Winston-Salem pitching coach] Matt Zaleski, they worked together a lot, so maybe it was just early-season jitters.

"It's certain things -- you have to get ahead of the hitters, and Dane, like every pitcher, has some moves that'll get him in trouble. But when he sets his mind to it, he'll take this game into his next side [session], and whether it's good or bad, he's putting good work into that."

Dunning (5-2) was sharp from the outset Thursday, retiring the first 12 batters before Chris Paul singled to start the fifth inning. He struck out four of those batters, getting back to pounding the zone.

"He's got four pretty good pitches," the former big league right-hander Dotson said. "When he's throwing the ball downhill, he's got late life on his fastball. And he's sharpened the curveball, so now it has more of a 12-to-6 shape with better rotation. He's got the slider to use to expand the plate away and he can back-foot into a left-hander."

The Barons gave Dunning all the support he needed in the fourth. Keon Barnum beat out a grounder to third base and then Ryan Brett blasted a homer over the wall in left field.

Gameday box score

Birmingham tacked on a run in the fifth when top prospect Eloy Jimenez doubled and scored on Trey Michalczewski's line-drive single to right.

Ninth-ranked Zack Collins doubled and No. 21 prospect Seby Zavala collected four singles as well as credit from Dotson for handling Dunning well.

Even as good as the 2016 first-rounder was, Dotson -- who won 111 games with the White Sox, Royals and Yankees -- still found teachable moments.

"He had a good game today, but my comment to him was I noticed certain things when he threw the fastball and the curveball that I'm trying to get him to think about. He was getting out front on his curveball, and getting good extension, but I didn't see the same on his fastball," Dotson said.

"[The fastball] was elevated more than we called. The pitch was called down and away, and that's not what we wanted to see. For him to be his optimum, it's the angle thing. He has to get the ball downhill, like you're releasing out front."

Omar Bencomo (5-1) allowed three runs on nine hits and three runs over five innings for the Lookouts. Twins No. 16 prospect Tyler Jay pitched two scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.60.

MiLB include

The White Sox had eyes for Dunning in the 2016 Draft, but the Nationals took the Florida product at the end of the first round. Six months later, they acquired MLB.com's No. 66 overall prospect, along with right-handers Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, for outfielder Adam Eaton.

He has moved quickly to Double-A, and with his polish and command, could be thinking about the Major Leagues. But Dotson doesn't think so.

"He doesn't give me that impression at all, and if he did I would remind him that he's pitching here right now," the coach said. "Pitch good where you're at and it'll take care of itself. You need to make to work and adapt. It could be raining or this or that, but those things are out of your control. You have to be coachable and you can't be afraid to try things. There's a process you go through and sometimes you don't like the result."

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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