For Tyler Glasnow, it all comes down to adrenaline, and the adrenaline usually comes early. The nerves, the anxiousness -- excitement, he prefers to call it -- that comes with the first few pitches of his start can make or break his outing.
"Usually when I do struggle it's in the first inning," he said. "There are all sorts of things that go into it, but I've been keeping my focus on staying even-keeled and calm out there, not rushing anything -- just maintaining a slow heart rate and letting myself perform from there."
So when the right-hander took the mound for Class A Advanced Bradenton in the first inning -- the frame in which he'd allowed six of his nine earned runs and issued half of his 20 walks entering Wednesday -- and retired Tampa's Jake Cave, Cito Culver and Greg Bird consecutively, the latter two on strikeouts, it was a signal of the domination to come.
The Pirates' No. 3 prospect struck out a season-high 12 and allowed only one hit and two walks across 5 2/3 innings Wednesday morning to lead the Marauders to a 3-0 win over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The dozen punchouts were one shy of both Glasnow's career high, set Aug. 22 last season with Class A West Virginia, and Bradenton's franchise record.
"From the first pitch of the game, I could kind of feel that my focus was there," said the Marauders starter, who earned his first Florida State League win. "Bullpens and warmups and everything went well, but once I was able to get something down against a batter, that's when I felt everything really click."
Following his perfect first, Glasnow, who has received high marks for his mid-90s fastball and curveball to go with an average changeup, didn't allow a baserunner to reach until walking Danny Oh to lead off the third. He also gave up a single to Greg Bird in the fourth, but between those two batters, he recorded all six outs via the punchout. In fact, during a run that extended into the first batter of the sixth, he struck out nine of the next 11 Yankees he faced following the Oh free pass.
"That was all about getting ahead of batters early in counts and throwing them off with a curveball," said Glasnow, who added he only threw about 10 deuces Wednesday, but most came with two strikes. "It's usually around the third or fourth that I'm getting settled in after being able to go through the lineup the first time, and that was definitely the case today."
He made his exit after walking Jake Cave and getting Cito Culver to fly out for the second out of the sixth.
The 20-year-old right-hander, of course, is no stranger to the letter "K." He fanned 164 batters across 111 1/3 innings in a breakout campaign with Class A West Virginia during his first full pro season in 2013. After missing most of last month due to a back injury, he is 1-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 37 strikeouts in his first seven Class A Advanced starts, spanning 32 2/3 innings.
Though the total of 12 strikeouts is the first thing to jump out from his pitching line Wednesday, limiting Tampa to two walks is also encouraging. Glasnow, who averaged 4.9 free passes per nine innings, walked seven in just two innings in his second FSL start on April 30. Though he hasn't been nearly that inaccurate since, his 4.5 BB/9 rate in his four starts that followed wasn't fantastic either. This season as a whole, he's walked 22 in 32 2/3 innings (6.1 BB/9).
But Glasnow insists his control issues are behind him, thanks to his ability control one other aspect -- adrenaline.
"Honestly from this year to last year, my command feels a lot better," he said. "I had some issues early last year, too, and right now it feels much better than it looks on paper, I know. I'm keeping my composure a lot more than I used to when the adrenaline gets going, and that's helping out a lot."