Jon Duplantier is exactly where he wants to be.
After a hamstring injury cut his Spring Training short and delayed the start of his season, Arizona's top prospect expected the season to be an uphill climb. However, the Kinesiology major from Rice had a better understanding than most of what it takes to make a full recovery and did so without any setbacks.
So in just his sixth Southern League start on Monday, the 23-year-old who earned last year's MiLBY as Top Starting Pitcher sparkled over a season-high six innings. Duplantier yielded a pair of hits and walks as Double-A Jackson bested Pensacola, 5-0, in a game called due to rain in the eighth frame at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The right-hander fanned six and sent the Generals back to their base with a rare five-game road sweep.
Video: Duplantier picks up sixth K for Generals
"I felt really good out there," Duplantier said. "We did a good job of talking about our plan and then going out and executing it. There really wasn't any improvisation today, we were all on the same page. And I knew we were going for a sweep, but I wasn't really preoccupied with it. I think that speaks to the team, though. After starting as hot as we did, we just went through a little rough patch, so to do this shows what kind of team we are and I think also speaks to our character."
Baseball's No. 68 prospect started his outing with a five-pitch walk to No. 5 Reds prospect Shed Long, but he settled in from there. Duplantier induced a double-play ball from Luis Gonzalez and struck out Brian O'Grady swinging to get out of the first inning.
"I think I started off a little lackadaisical to be honest," he said. "I wasn't really finishing my pitches early on. But then I locked in after that and the rest is history."
Gameday box score
The 2016 third-rounder allowed just three baserunners over the remainder of his outing and no one made it into scoring position while he was on the bump. Duplantier (3-1) set down the side in order in the third and sixth.
"I had just about everything working for me except my curveball," he said. "My fastball was there and it was going wherever I wanted to put it, my slider was really effective for me tonight to keep guys off balance, and my changeup was big against their lefties. It was great for early contact and quick outs. So I had a good rhythm going and just checked all my boxes as I went."
The 2016 third-rounder left the game after throwing 51 of his 73 pitches for strikes. He picked up his third victory after not factoring into the decision his last two outings.
"I saw a guy tonight who went out there and attacked hitters over the plate and trusted his pitches," said Generals pitching coach Doug Drabek. "There were a few minor mechanical changes we've been working on, but the big thing was always to be aggressive and for him to trust his stuff. Jon's got great movement on his pitches, and when he trusts it over the zone early in counts, it allows him to expand later in the count. You saw that tonight."
"Coach told me when I came in after the sixth that I would go out there for another inning if I hadn't gotten hurt in Spring Training, but I think I'm right where I need to be," Duplantier added. "When I got injured, it wasn't just a hamstring injury for me. I knew exactly which muscle within the hamstring that was hurt and that's something I pride myself on. So having that information definitely helped my recovery process go quicker and smoother than it might have otherwise. I mean, it could have been a lot worse, but it went really well."
In the fifth, Taylor Sparks hit a hot shot to shortstop Galli Cribbs, but the ball took a tough bounce off the field and he could not handle it. Initially ruled an error, the scoring was changed to a hit after the game was completed.
"Man, that [stinks]," said Duplantier after learning of the scoring change. "That's some home-field advantage right there. They can thank their grounds crew for that one. But hey, it's just another hit and no runs, so I still did my job.
"It's a great feeling to get the win, but that's never really the goal for me. Every time I go out there I just want to keep my team in the game and give them the best chance to get a win. It's awesome if we get runs while I'm out there, but whether I finish with 20 wins or three, it really means nothing unless I'm giving my team the best shot to win. That's my job."
Duplantier got support early from his offense as Rudy Flores drove in two with a double in the first inning and Kevin Medrano added a two-RBI hit in the next frame.
Righty Wyatt Strahan (4-3) surrendered four runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts over five innings for the Blue Wahoos.