For a long, long time, Sam Dyson had been looking forward to doing what he did Monday night.
Making his Triple-A debut, the Marlins prospect scattered four hits and two walks and fanned four over six shutout innings to earn the victory in New Orleans' 7-3 win over visiting Reno.
Dyson was unable to start for over three weeks in July with a lower back strain. Shining in the outing that was both his return to competitive pitching and his first crack at a new level was reassuring.
"It's a good feeling. I was just keeping the ball down and letting the infielders play behind me," Dyson said. "And they seemed to do that really well -- they got me a couple of double plays for me."
But returning to the mound wasn't the thing that had him especially excited, though. Neither was pitching in the Pacific Coast League for the first time. Nor was making his longest outing of the year.
Dyson belted a home run -- the first of his pro career -- against rehabbing D-backs hurler Trevor Cahill, going deep on the first pitch he saw in his fifth-inning at-bat.
"It would have been just as much fun off a Minor Leaguer as a Major Leaguer, to be honest with you. I haven't hit a home run since high school. It's been, like, seven years," said the 25-year-old hurler. "I decided if he threw one up, whether it was at my shoulders or my chin or what, I was going to swing at it. He did, and I got it. I thought it had a chance, but then when I the saw left fielder [Juan Rivera] running, I thought he was going to catch it.
"I've been trying to hit one all year. That's the first time I swung a bat in four weeks," Dyson added. "I had some stuff in the cage a couple hours before the game, but I haven't seen live pitching since I was in Double-A."
On the other side of the ball, the only time Dyson had more than one runner on base came in the second inning. He walked the Aces' Alfredo Marte with one out and surrendered a two-out single to Ed Easley.
"I knew I just needed to make some good pitches," Dyson said. "If I kept the ball down, they were going to hit it on the ground, or if I changed speeds, hopefully I could get them to pop it up. I lucked out."
That approach worked each time Reno put a man aboard. After a leadoff walk in the fourth, he induced a double-play ball, and he repeated the trick after a leadoff single in the fifth.
"That's always what I'm trying to do, is get them to hit it on the ground," said Dyson. "[Double plays] can save you a couple of runs, one or two, in an inning,"
Dyson, whom the Marlins had claimed from the Blue Jays off waivers over the offseason, was Toronto's fourth-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2010. He didn't play that season and missed 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander split last year between Class A Advanced and Double-A, but also made two big league appearances. This year, prior to his PCL debut, he'd been 3-7 with a 2-63 ERA for Double-A Jacksonville.
No. 2 D-backs prospect Matt Davidson doubled, singled and scored a run for the Aces.
Cahill, out with a right hip contusion since July 1, fell to 0-2 in Triple-A ball. He gave up six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six over 4 1/3 innings.