It's hard to say a pitcher is ever too efficient, but that just might've been the case with Matthew Neil on Monday.
It took just 55 pitches for Neil to work through the first 18 batters in Class A Advanced Jupiter's 5-1 win over Fort Myers, allowing neither a hit nor a walk. But having reached his innings limit, he came out with a perfect-game bid intact.
"It was a little disappointing," Neil said. "They tell us to pitch to contact, keep your pitch count down and I felt like I did that well, being at 55 pitches after six innings. I was hoping they'd bend their policy a bit, but it's early on in the season and they've got the rules to keep everybody healthy."
A Marlins' 29th-round pick in 2011, Neil (1-0) struck out three while twice cruising through the Miracle lineup. It was his longest outing in three starts, and after struggling against the Miracle last week, he said it felt good to master a lineup that roughed him up for eight hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings when they met on April 11.
"It was especially nice after I pitched against this team last week and they got the better of me, nice to get some revenge," he joked. "I was able to pitch my game instead of letting them hit it all over the place this time."
The Brigham Young University product thrives on efficient pitching, after issuing just seven walks in 76 2/3 innings between Class A Short-Season Jamestown and Jupiter last season. He said he was able to use four to five pitches to keep the Fort Myers' bats off balance.
"I was throwing pretty much everything. My fastball locations were going pretty well, my cutter and curveball were there. I mixed in a slider and changeup every once in a while to keep them honest," the Arizona native said. "I wanted to focus on making first-pitch strikes. And [Jupiter catcher] Jacob Realmuto called a real nice game, kept me on both sides of the plate."
Neil credited Hammerheads pitching coach Joel Coleman with helping him bounce back from last week's tough start.
"He straightened me out in the bullpen and I saw some success tonight. It felt good," he said.
Jupiter's five runs came on 11 hits from a lineup filled with Miami's top prospects. No. 17 Mark Canha went 2-for-4 with a double and four RBIs. Top prospect -- and MLB.com's No. 35 overall -- Christian Yelich was 2-for-3 with three runs and a triple. Marcell Ozuna (No. 5) and Realmuto (No. 6) added hits as well.
Jordan Conley allowed one run on two hits over two innings and Michael Brady gave up a hit in one scoreless frame to finish off the night for the Hammerheads.