Class A Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson has seen Miguel Diaz have good starts and bad starts. On Friday, he watched the 21-year-old right-hander deliver his best one in the Midwest League.
"He established his fastball early in the zone and got ahead of hitters. The ball was coming out of his hand pretty good, and he mixed in his changeup pretty good early on," Erickson said. "His third-best pitch tonight was his breaking ball, but his fastball and changeup were good enough that he was getting swings out of the zone with the breaking ball, especially against righties."
The Brewers' No. 27 prospect yielded two singles and a walk while striking out eight over 6 1/3 innings in the Timber Rattlers' 2-0 win over visiting Kane County.
"He's got a big arm. He's got the most arm strength probably of anybody on our staff, so he's capable of dominating lineups on any given night with his stuff. Once in a while, there are some command issues there," Erickson said. "He doesn't always execute his pitches where he wants to, but today the ball was jumping out of his hand and he had swing-and-miss stuff. I thought Max McDowell, our catcher, did a great job calling the game, calling pitches, and he didn't have to pitch out of the stretch very much."
An elbow fracture that required surgery limited Diaz to 20 1/3 innings last season, and Friday's start was his longest since he went seven frames in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League on Aug. 7, 2013. He hadn't gone more than five innings in any start this year.
He retired his first 12 batters, and got a punchout and a groundout after Trevor Mitsui led off the fifth with a single. With two down, Diaz (1-5) balked Mitsui to second before he picked up his eighth strikeout of the game to end the inning.
"That's something that we've worked on a little bit -- coming set with him," Erickson said. "He does have a tendency to bounce. This balk call was, he was leaning toward the runner on first and he stepped back toward third. It's a constant teaching point out of the stretch with him, and we're going to continue to work on his composure and footwork and his hands separating."
After tossing a perfect sixth and retiring the first batter of the seventh, Diaz gave up a line single to Austin Byler and walked Mitsui, which ended his night. He threw 54 of 86 pitches for strikes.
"He just gave up the one hit, then the hit in the seventh, and the decision probably should have been to yank him there," Erickson said. "But I wanted to give him the opportunity to get the next hitter, maybe get a ground ball and a double play to finish the inning. When he walked him, it let us know it was time. I didn't want to keep him out there after being as good as he'd been for the rest of the night."
Scott Grist finished the frame without incident and Drake Owenby allowed a hit and a walk while striking out two over two scoreless innings for his first professional save.
Blake Allemand, the Brewers' 2015 fifth-round pick, went 3-for-3 with a run scored. That performance makes him 8-for-8 since the ninth inning of Wednesday's game and 27-for-51 (.529) during a 12-game hitting streak.
"He's always a competitor. He always makes pitchers work. He doesn't go out of the zone," his manager said. "He's got a simple swing, a contact swing. Right now, he's squaring balls up every time he gets a strike. Today, he went deeper into counts a couple times and fouled off pitches until he got one he could handle. He's using all parts of the field during the streak."
Isan Diaz, Milwaukee's No. 11 prospect, homered and hit a sacrifice fly to plate both of Wisconsin's runs. He also made an outstanding play at shortstop.
"He's a young man with great baseball skill. He could be special player. Getting consistency out of young men, asking them to do it on a day-after-day basis when they're not typically used to that in their first full season ..." Erickson said. "He's come a long way. He was real inconsistent at the beginning of the year. That particular [home run] swing was nice, because he made in-game adjustments. The first couple at-bats, they were trying to soften him up with changeups. He had big swings and he was pulling off. In his last at-bat, he was seeing balls deep into the count."