If A's farmhand Shawn Haviland sees any advantage to his lost 2011 season at Double-A -- and it's clear that he does -- the biggest is this: He's getting to work with pitching coach Don Schulze for a third straight season.
And if Haviland's recent work with Schulze is any indication, a fourth won't be necessary.
The 26-year-old right-hander pitched six hitless innings on Friday night before the Midland RockHounds dropped a 6-5 decision at Corpus Christi.
"I feel like I am finally turning a corner in Double-A after the year I had last year," Haviland said. "This is definitely one of the best -- if not the best -- outings of my career."
Haviland hit a batter and walked two others over the first three innings but retired the final 11 Hooks he faced. Schulze connected the early wildness to being too quick to home plate, and the hurler made the in-game adjustment. Having his full complement of pitches helped, too.
"Against a team like Corpus Christi," he said, "those guys can really swing it, so it's important to be the aggressor. I was throwing lots of changeups and curveballs to keep them off-balance."
That, he did. And as a result, the former Harvard standout and 2008 33rd-round Draft pick lowered his ERA to 4.70. His 6-8 record through 24 games (14 starts) remained unchanged.
While the numbers might not scream success, they do in comparison to those he posted a season ago for the RockHounds: 6-12, 7.08 ERA in 27 starts.
Haviland made a name for himself under Schulze's watch in 2010 at Class A Advanced Stockton, going 9-6 with a 3.65 ERA and a 166-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the hitter-friendly California League. He said he and his coach have made minor tweaks to his mechanics. Among them, getting his throwing hand out of his glove quicker pre-pitch.
Beyond that, Haviland credited his recent relegation to the bullpen.
"That was to give me a different look and get my confidence back," he said, adding that he prefers starting to relieving.
As well as he pitched Friday, Haviland had little control of his no-hit bid. He was lifted after throwing 89 pitches and James Simmons gave up the Hooks' first hit with out in the seventh as Drew Locke singled and scored two batters later on Adam Bailey's two-run homer.
Corpus Christi rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth against right-handers Jonathan Ortiz and Brett Hunter (2-1).
Hooks starter Paul Clemens (0-1) -- the Astros' No. 8 starter -- gave up four runs on seven hits, including a pair of homers to Tyler Ladendorf, over 6 2/3 innings. He was making his first start following Thursday's demotion from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 24-year-old right-hander won half of his 16 decisions in the Pacific Coast League and compiled a 6.73 ERA in 20 starts.
Ladendorf, who Haviland described as as a patient hitter usually ready to pounce on the fastball, has seven homers on the season. This was his second career multihomer game; and first since Aug. 8, 2010 as Haviland's teammate on the Ports.