It hasn't taken long for Cristian Javier to make an impact for Double-A Corpus Christi.
The Astros' No. 29 prospect struck out eight while allowing two hits over a season-high 6 1/3 innings as the Hooks shut down Amarillo, 1-0, on Saturday night at Whataburger Field.
Video: Hooks' Javier strikes out eighth batter
Javier (2-1) has allowed one earned run over his last 20 2/3 innings, dating to a May 16 relief appearance against Midland. Saturday's outing was the 22-year-old's longest since last July 13, when he hurled seven innings for Class A Advanced Buies Creek.
According to Hooks pitching coach Graham Johnson, it isn't an accident that Javier has not gone deeper into games. The Astros organization likes to keep its Minor League pitchers on a strict pitch count.
"It would be tough to get more than that," Johnson said. "Obviously, I think he can give a full seven innings at one point but with the pitch counts we have our guys on and what we are trying to do, it would be tough for him to get past the seventh. You would really have to pitch efficiently if you were able to do that."
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Known for an electric fastball, it's Javier's off-speed stuff that has made him so good at this level, Johnson said, especially when it comes to facing advanced hitters.
"He's always had a fastball that has performed well and it seems to be up in terms of velocity a little bit, so it seems to be performing at even a higher level than it has in the past," Johnson said. "The biggest thing is that he has a lot more confidence in his slider and changeup and he's still using his curveball as well.
"Obviously, there's enough good hitters in this league to where if you are fastball-only eventually they will be able to adjust to you. He's able to land enough of his off-speed in the zone and lure hitters to chase. Those allow his fastball to play up higher than it would if it were his only pitch."
In his first outing for the Hooks, the 6-foot-1 righty allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in two innings. For Johnson, that came from a combination of being too fired up for his Double-A debut.
"I think he was amped up when he first came in and kind of just ran out of steam and ended up giving up some late runs," Johnson said. "He's performed really well almost every single time out. We were just giving him a chance to try and finish that game in that first one."
2019 MiLB include
A single by Ivan Castillo with one out in the first was erased as Javier induced consectutive popouts from Padres No. 20 prospect Edward Olivares and 24th-ranked Owen Miller.
The right-hander worked around a walk to Taylor Kohlwey in the fourth and Castillo's single in the sixth before getting pulled with one out and one on in the seventh.
Javier lowered his ERA to 1.99 in five appearances for the Hooks, allowing five earned runs while striking out 27 over 22 2/3 innings since being promoted from Class A Advanced Fayetteville on May 15.
Colin McKee struck out four over 2 2/3 frames for his fifth save, allowing one hit and one walk.
Osvaldo Duarte drove in the game's only run, scoring Granden Goetzman with a groundout in the fifth.