Travieso channels his inner 'Rocket'
As a youngster playing ball on Florida's East Coast, Nick Travieso modeled his game around his idol, Roger Clemens.
From his mechanics to his mentality, everything mirrored "The Rocket." Now even Travieso's current pitching coach -- a teammate of Clemens 20 years ago -- is seeing the similarities.
Reds' No. 3 prospect Travieso allowed two hits and struck out six batters over six innings in the Class A Dayton Dragons' 6-0 victory over the Great Lakes Loons on Thursday.
And if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, well, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner would have been pleased by the effort Travieso turned in.
"Our pitching coach Tony Fossas has been to the big leagues and he knows what he is doing," he said. "He said I have the same physique as what Roger did. He was my idol and I looked up to him. Growing up, I had the same mechanics as Roger and [Fossas] said he reminded me of him and had the same character as him.
"It was funny that he said I had him down to a 'T.' It was a huge compliment. If I can do a fraction of what he did, I will be very successful. He was probably one of the biggest influences in becoming a pitcher."
The 19-year-old retired the first eight batters he faced at Fifth Third Field on Thursday before Webster Rivas beat out an infield single to shortstop Zach Vincej with two outs in the third.
Aaron Miller later doubled to left field with one away in the fourth, but the right-hander set down the next eight Loons before turning a 5-0 lead over to the bullpen.
"I felt comfortable with my fastball warming up in the bullpen. My pitching coach told me that if I felt good, I should throw it," said Travieso. "We talk pretty much every day, and we'll talk even when I'm not pitching. He said to stick with it until they prove they can hit it. I threw a couple changeups in there and a handful of sliders just to show it."
The six innings tied a career high -- he went this deep four other times -- while his strikeout total fell one short of his personal best. He fanned seven batters in a 5-1 triumph over South Bend on July 6.
The 6-foot-2 Florida native lowered his ERA from 5.19 to 4.73 in earning his team-best seventh win.
Travieso (7-3) has blown hot and cold in his first year in the Midwest League. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in half of his 14 starts.
But in three separate starts, he has failed to make it through the third inning, including when he allowed seven runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings in Cedar Rapids on July 12 and six runs on eight hits over two innings against Great Lakes on June 20.
"Probably five times or seven times out of 10, you won't feel your best. The other three times you have to make the most of it," said Travieso, who grew up a Yankees fan in part because of 11-time All-Star Clemens. "Looking back at some of those other starts, I could have battled more. It goes back to the competitiveness.
"The best thing you can do is stick it out and compete. [Clemens] was very intense. [Fossas] played with him on the same team [Boston between 1991-'94] and said he was a workaholic. Fossas was a pitcher too, and that was big for him being a new guy. He said he knew Clemens wasn't going to be a one-time guy."
Jesus Adames tossed two hitless innings and Abel De Los Santos worked around a ninth-inning single to seal the shutout in front of a season-best 9,509 crowd, just 49 short of the franchise record.
Loons starter Jonathan Martinez (2-3) surrendered five runs on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out one batter over five innings.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.