After beginning the season in the bullpen, Andrew Thurman is slowing finding his groove as a starter.
The Braves' No. 18 prospect recorded a career-high nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 frames on Saturday before Double-A Mississippi dropped a 5-4, 10-inning decision at Pensacola. He allowed one run on three hits and a walk before departing with a 2-1 lead in his fifth start for Mississippi.
"The command felt good on my fastball and breaking pitches," Thurman said. "I was able to get ahead in the count, threw well and expanded the zone when I needed to to get some good outs. The pitching coach, Dennis Lewallyn, and I have been working a lot on my mechanics, trying to help me get the ball down and improve my fastball command, and it just kind of clicked tonight."
The 24-year-old right-hander struck half of the minimum 14 batters he faced before Reds No. 13 prospect Eric Jagielo hit a two-out double in the fifth. Thurman surrendered his lone run an inning later when Joe Hudson led off with a double, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on Bryson Smith's sacrifice fly.
"I left a couple of pitches in middle of the plate," he said, "but for the most part, I was just working in and out and on the corners. [Willians] Astudillo back there was calling a good game and I was to make the pitches late in count to get the swing-and-misses."
A late rally by the Blue Wahoos spoiled Thurman's chance to record his first win of the season, but the 2013 second-round pick said he's optmistic about his performance after shaking off a stretch in which he surrendered 11 runs over his last 12 innings.
"It helps [my confidence] a lot," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win the game tonight; it was a tough loss. But for me, personally, it was a big game. I feel like it's really going to help me down the road."
Thurman, whose first four appearances of the season came out of the bullpen, also was pitching almost exactly a year after a bus accident that sidelined him for nearly two months, but he said he's not feeling any lingering effects and is back on track in his career progression.
"I'm totally fine now," he said. "I got roughed up about a year ago now, but I just had some bumps and bruises, nothing too major to keep me out from throwing a little bit. Since then, I've just been working on my mechanics, trying to make them more sound and repeat my delivery more. Everything feels good now."
Madison Younginer relieved Thurman and pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings, but Braves No. 28 prospect Mauricio Cabrera couldn't lock it down in the ninth as pinch-hitter Chad Wallach tied the game with a two-out three-run double.
Reds No. 8 prospect Alex Blandino won it for the Blue Wahoos with a single in the 10th off Braves No. 24 prospect Jason Hursh.
Jacob Schrader and Johan Camargo slugged solo homers for the Braves, who got a pair of hits from Carlos Franco.
Carlos Gonzalez (2-0) picked up the win with a scoreless 10th after Reds No. 15 prospect Sal Romano allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
Michael Peng is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelXPeng