If moving up a level was an adjustment for Cristian Javier, he hardly showed it.
The Astros' No. 18 prospect tossed six hitless innings in his Carolina League season debut, pitching Class A Advanced Buies Creek to a 2-1 victory over Carolina on Wednesday at Jim Perry Stadium.
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"He's a unique individual," Buies Creek pitching coach Drew French said. "I coached him last year in the Midwest League. He has a lot of deception and hitters don't seem to be able to see his stuff very well. When he's attacking the strike zone and mixing off-speed pitches in and locating as well as he does, he has a shot to get anyone out -- and not just in the Carolina League."
Javier (1-0) worked a 1-2-3 first before walking Weston Wilson to open the second. After a pair of fly balls, he punctuated the inning by striking out Max McDowell.
Cooper Hummel walked to start the Mudcats third, but it was clear sailing thereafter for the native of the Dominican Republic.
Javier set down the next nine batters before Ryan Aguilar drew a leadoff walk in the sixth. Tucker Neuhaus was hit by a pitch with two outs, putting the 21-year-old in his only stressful situation of the night. He responded by retiring Wilson on a comebacker on his 90th pitch.
"I feel pretty confident from being here for two games last year," Javier said. "I came here with that confidence and feel pretty good. I want to attack the strike zone and keep using my changeup a lot more."
Javier pitched to a 1.82 ERA in 11 games, including seven starts, for Class A Quad Cities before earning a callup to the Carolina League, where he made two relief appearances last season. In his last five outings across the two levels, he's given up two runs on eight hits over 26 1/3 frames.
"He has a really unique fastball," French said. "The way he uses it and is able to pitch at the top of the zone, it's really unique to A-ball. His fastball plays well. The deception along with the shape of it really gives him the opportunity to miss barrels and get over bats for swings and misses and strikeouts."
Javier added a changeup to his repertoire, and the results have been evident.
"It's more or less not what he doesn't do but what he does well," French said. "He locates his fastball and his off-speed pitches are for strikes. He manages the game like a big leaguer. The only thing that's different this year is his physicality. He's stronger and his velocity is better. The use of his changeup though is the difference-maker. He would deem it his fourth pitch, but he used it 16-18 times in the game and had good control of it."
"I've been working on it throughout the season," Javier added. "But today, I had that extra confidence that I could use it in any count and any batter."
Abdiel Saldana came on in the seventh and gave up a one-out single to Luis Aviles Jr. that ended the no-hit bid. Colin McKee struck out one in a perfect ninth for his second save of the season.
Buies Creek grabbed the lead in the third on an RBI groundout by Osvaldo Duarte and made it 2-0 in the sixth when Luis Payano singled home Astros No. 28 prospect Abraham Toro.
Tucker Neuhaus drove in the Mudcats' lone run with a single in the eighth.