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Southern notes: Joseph takes control

Pensacola closer showing better command in Double-A return
May 15, 2012
Donnie Joseph puts everything into his pitches. "I have a violent delivery," the Pensacola closer said.

It's controlled violence, though, and opposing Southern League hitters are the victims.

"I'm out there to get strikeouts," said the left-hander, who is ranked as Cincinnati's No. 10 prospect. "When I can get strike one, I'm in charge."

But Joseph rarely was working ahead in the count last year. That's changed this season.

A third-round pick by the Reds in the 2009 Draft out of the University of Houston, Joseph had struck out 27 and walked just four over 18 innings in his first 16 appearances.

With that improved ratio has come a 4-0 record, six saves and a 0.46 ERA for Pensacola after struggling a year ago when the Reds' Double-A team was based at Carolina.

Joseph has a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider. His lack of control, though, did him in last season.

The 24-year-old Texas native had 66 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings, but he walked 30 and had a 6.94 ERA in 57 appearances.

"Last season was tough," Joseph said. "But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise."

Joseph worked with pitching coach Tom Brown on his mechanics, and things began to click the last month or so of the season and carried over to the Arizona Fall League.

Pitching for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Joseph had a 2.96 ERA in 12 appearances and had 17 strikeouts to six walks in 17 innings.

That earned him an invitation to Spring Training with the Reds. He got into four Cactus League games and came into the 2012 season looking little like the inconsistent pitcher Southern League hitters faced a year ago.

Now Joseph keeps his head steady as he releases the ball, and he no longer jerks toward the third-base line on his follow-through.

"I'm pretty much straight on now," he said. "My mechanics are a lot better."

So are the results.

Joseph didn't allow a run in his first 12 appearances, with his only blown save coming on a game-tying two-out homer by Keenan Wiley in the ninth inning at Mississippi on May 6.

Pensacola came back to win that game, 4-3, in 12 innings, and Joseph had allowed only seven other hits in his first 16 games. Opponents were batting just .127.

It has been a fresh start for Joseph and the team, which had the worst record in the Southern League last year while based in Carolina. Gone are the long road trips. In are large and enthusiastic crowds.

The Blue Wahoos had sold out 13 games and led the Southern League in attendance through Sunday.

"This is a great place to play," Joseph said. "When we go on a road trip, we can't wait to get back home."

In brief

Pryor promoted: The Mariners' top three pitching prospects -- Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton -- still lead the Jackson rotation, but closer Stephen Pryor was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this month to join former Generals starter Andrew Carraway. Pryor, No. 9 on the Mariners' prospect list, had a 1.13 ERA with seven saves and a 1-0 record plus 24 strikeouts to five walks in 16 innings for the Generals. He's yet to yield a run in three appearances with the Rainiers.

Colome near return: Montgomery right-hander Alex Colome is about ready to return to the mound after straining an oblique during his second start of the season at Mississippi on April 11. Tampa Bay's No. 14 prospect, he was 12-9 with a 3.82 ERA between the Biscuits and Class A Advanced Charlotte last season.

Gibbons steps in: Huntsville lost two of its best hitters when Jeff Bianchi (.351) was promoted to Triple-A Nashville and Khris Davis (.328) went on the disabled list. But the Stars are still battling Jackson for first place in the North Division thanks to Jay Gibbons. The former Major Leaguer hit .381 in his first 12 games with Huntsville.

Simmons still shines: Andrelton Simmons, No. 60 among's Top 100 prospects, continued to show why he is considered Atlanta's shortstop of the future. The native of Curacao has made just two errors in his first 29 games for Mississippi and is batting .304 with a .388 on-base percentage. He has 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to