Mitchell White decided to focus on improving his breaking balls after his last start. So he and Hooks pitching coach Dave Borkowski put an emphasis on further developing the right-hander's plus-plus slider and plus curveball in side bullpen sessions between starts.
The results of their work were on full display Monday as the No. 8 Dodgers prospect turned in the best outing of his professional career -- working around a hit and walk to strike out a season-high nine and twirl six scoreless frames for Double-A Tulsa in a 6-1 Texas League triumph over Corpus Christi at ONEOK Field.
Video: Tulsa's White picks up ninth K
"Two bullpen sessions ago, we just focused on the slider and getting it to a different place. Mixing up the grip of it," he said. "And the other day it was all curveballs. Being able to throw it for strikes, and that's all about hitting the right line with it. Getting it to break down in the zone. ... That definitely helped me out today."
The 24-year-old lowered his ERA to 1.85 over his first six outings, which ranks second in the Texas League to Arkansas' Ricardo Sanchez (1.75). White is tops on the circuit in opponents' batting average (.151) and WHIP (0.78). He has fanned 30 while walking just six over 24 1/3 innings this season and Monday was his second consecutive start without allowing a run -- a stretch of 11 2/3 frames.
Against the Hooks, the 2016 second-rounder retired the first five batters he faced -- whiffing three -- before Chas McCormick punched a ground ball single into left field. White recovered by fanning Lorenzo Quintana on four pitches to end the frame. He would face the minimum the rest of the way.
Gameday box score
"I felt great today. I just went out there and pitched," White said. "I established my fastball early, got it working to both sides of the plate. And it was just one of those days where I just felt comfortable throwing anything at any time. Not one pitch was a carry pitch, it was just a little bit of everything."
After Carmen Benedetti worked a six-pitch walk to lead off the third, Chuckie Robinson went down swinging before Houston's 13th-ranked prospect, Ronnie Dawson, was coaxed into an inning-ending double play.
From there the right-hander retired the final nine hitters he faced -- striking out four. The native of Santa Clara, California coasted, never needing more than 15 pitches to navigate an inning. He finished with a season-high 79 pitches, 54 for strikes. The only other time he recorded nine strikeouts was last Aug. 24 with Tulsa against Arkansas.
"The plan today was very simplified: it was basically just go out there and compete. Just attack the zone, see how the stuff is playing early. Read the swings and reactions from the hitters and go from there," he said. "At the end of the day, it's just about executing pitches."
White entered the season after spending the spring in big league camp where he made two appearances with Los Angeles and allowed a hit and run while punching out three over 1 2/3 frames. It was his second trip to Major League Spring Training.
"Everyone talks about how cool it is to meet the guys up there, and it is awesome, but I think the biggest thing that helped me was locking down some stuff with some really smart people. Like rehab and taking care of myself. Paying attention to every little detail. It definitely comes down to that," White said.
2019 MiLB include
Third-ranked Dodgers prospect Gavin Lux provided White with plenty of run support on Monday with his first multi-homer performance of the season. MLB.com's No. 66 overall prospect turned around the first pitch of the game from Hooks starter Brett Adcock and launched it over the fence in right-center for his sixth dinger of the year. Lux provided another lead for the Drillers in the seventh with a go-ahead two-run blast to right off Brandon Bailey (0-1). The 21-year-old has homered in three straight games, and his seven long balls are tied for second in the Texas League with Corpus Christi's Granden Goetzman, one behind leader Edward Olivares -- No. 23 Padres prospect -- of Amarillo.
Video: Drillers' Lux slugs second homer
"He's insane," White said of Lux with a chuckle. "First pitch of the game he hammers a bomb, and later when we really needed it, he gives us some breathing room and puts one out to left. I mean, everything he does is pretty impressive."
Dodgers No. 26 prospect Cristian Santana led off the eighth with a dinger to right off Bailey to kick-start a three-run frame for Tulsa.