Coming out of Spring Training, Grant Holmes stressed that one of the biggest things he needed to do to get off to a strong start in 2016 was "just commanding the fastball." In his second start of the year, his heater wasn't popping, but that didn't stop the righty from having success.
The Dodgers' No. 3 prospect scattered five hits and struck out seven over six shutout innings for his first win of the season as the Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes slipped by the Lake Elsinore Storm, 4-1, on Thursday night at The Diamond.
"To be honest, said Holmes, "it was my secondary stuff. My fastball wasn't really there, but I got the off-speed over for strikes. That helped me a lot."
The 20-year-old got help from his defense while pitching his way out of trouble. Rancho Cucamonga turned a pair of double plays, and the righty used strikeouts to get out of jams.
"The two walks I had were both four-pitch walks and that's not good," Holmes said. "I was leaving balls up. I think I threw 11 first-pitch strikes out of 23."
After realizing his fastball wasn't up to snuff, he switched gears and relied on the rest of his repertoire.
"My sinker, you could call it a fastball, but it's a little bit slower," Holmes said. "Having learned that sinker over the past couple of years, when my command is a little off, that sinker comes in really handy.
"My off-speed was pretty good tonight, changeup and slider. When I got in a couple little jams, I was thinking, 'You've got to roll a double play here. Throw it low in the zone and get two outs.' It paid off pretty good."
Coupled with his first start, a no-decision against the same Storm lineup five days ago, Holmes hasn't allowed an earned run in 11 innings this season. MLB.com's No. 60 overall prospect has fanned 12 Lake Elsinore hitters while walking four.
"I'm pretty content where I'm at," he said. "There's always room to get better, and that's what I plan on doing, just focusing on each start, pitching and keeping it simple."
The Quakes grabbed the lead in the second when No. 10 Dodgers prospect Yusniel Diaz plated a run on a triple to center and scored one batter later on Paul Hoenecke's sacrifice fly to right. Diaz went 2-for-4, the only multi-hit performance for Rancho Cucamonga.
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.