Francescon twirls seven one-hit innings

Cubs prospect benefits from video review with pitching coach

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | April 22, 2012 3:11 PM ET

After P.J. Francescon's third outing of the season on Tuesday, a 3 2/3-inning "struggle" as he called it, the Cubs farmhand sat down with new Peoria pitching coach Ron Villone to watch video.

The Minor League starter and the former Major League reliever noticed two inconsistencies: Francescon's arm slot and where his plant leg landed on his follow-through.

Consider the errors fixed.

Francescon allowed one hit over a career-high seven innings Saturday as the Class A Chiefs beat the visiting Lansing Lugnuts, 2-0, for their first shutout of the season.

"I guess I'm a visual person," the winning pitcher deadpanned.

Francescon struck out five, walked a batter and yielded only Kevin Pillar's leadoff double in the second inning.

"It was a fastball. I hit my spot, on the black," Francescon said. "He just blooped it over the first baseman and it rolled to the wall. Like good hitters do, he got it."

After walking Kellen Sweeney to start the fourth, the 23-year-old right-hander retired his final 11 batters.

"My sinker was working well, I was missing barrels with it," the Cubs' 40th-round pick said. "I was throwing my slider for first-pitch strikes. I got a couple of guys with my changeup late in counts. Everything was working.

"Every time I went out there, I wasn't trying to change anything."

Francescon was mainly a reliever last season, his first in the pros. The Trevecca Nazarene University product compiled a 3.49 ERA in 19 appearances across three levels, finishing with Daytona in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

"This is by far my best" game, he said.

The Tennessee native pitched into the sixth for the first time on April 12, when he limited Wisconsin to three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Villone, who replaced pitching coach Tom Pratt last month after Pratt was diagnosed with cancer, helped Francescon review his most recent outing. The pitcher gave up two runs on three hits and three walks while facing the Lugnuts earlier this week.

Francescon did not have the luxury of analyzing his starts on the tube last season, as was the case during his college career. He now has a post-start routine -- call it "Video with Villone" -- for the rest of this season.

"It's helpful," he said. "I like to see what I'm doing right and wrong."

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow AndrewMiLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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