The average pitcher will tell you that the opposing batter's name doesn't change the game. Daytona's Frank Del Valle is no average pitcher.
"It was the first time I faced a big leaguer," Del Valle said through an interpreter after facing rehabbing Phillies slugger Chase Utley on Friday night. "It was amazing. I tried my hardest to get him out. I didn't want to hit him that one time."
While Del Valle did in fact hit Utley, he also didn't give up a hit to Utley -- or any other member of the Clearwater Threshers for that matter.
The Cuba-born prospect recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts over six no-hit innings in the Class A Advanced Cubs' 3-1 victory at Clearwater.
Del Valle, a 22-year-old left-hander, retired his final eight batters after plunking the All-Star second baseman in the fourth -- one of two Threshers who were hit by pitches. Over the middle innings, he recorded seven straight outs via strikeouts. He did not walk a batter.
"It was my best game," said Del Valle, who also induced Utley's first-inning flyout. "My fastball was good. I tried to throw the first pitch for a strike and then change speeds."
Batterymate Micah Gibbs added on the postgame radio broadcast: "He was awesome. Everything I threw down, it was the right thing, and that was because of him."
"He was attacking hitters with his fastball like he always does, and that was the best changeup I've seen him have. He pounded the strike zone," Gibbs told MiLB.com. "He was a little bit effectively wild at times and they were swinging at those pitches. This is the second year I've caught him and it is a lot of fun. He's got great stuff."
On a 100-pitch limit, Del Valle threw 84 and had been favoring the thumb on his pitching hand when he exited. He said he noticed a blister in the fourth inning, and it broken open in the sixth.
"I wanted to stay in," he said. "I wish I could have pitched longer."
"He probably could have," Daytona manager Brian Harper said. "But there wasn't any reason to chance anything. He wasn't going to go nine innings. He had already thrown too many pitches. [The blister] is nothing serious, but it's better to be cautious. With his pitch count, it was an easy decision to take him out."
The Havana native matched his single-game career high in innings and eclipsed his career best in strikeouts. Del Valle fanned eight over six strong innings in a May 18 win in Palm Beach. He also struck out eight in three no-hit innings in a July 3, 2011 start in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
At 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA through 11 games, Del Valle is excelling in his first full pro season. After signing with Chicago on June 11, 2011, he compiled a 3.95 ERA in 14 games across three Minor League levels.
"He's thrown some good games, but that was his best by far," Harper said. "He threw a great game. He pitched inside well, changed speeds and it looked like he had a little extra giddy-up on his fastball. It was nice to see."
The Cubs' combined no-hit bid ended almost immediately after Del Valle left. After Utley was robbed of extra bases by center fielder Rubi Silva to start the seventh, Jim Murphy homered off right-handed reliever Eduardo Figueroa. Murphy had fanned in both of his at-bats against Del Valle.
The longball also ended the Cubs' 23 2/3-inning shutout streak.
Scott Weismann allowed the Threshers' second hit -- a double to Cameron Rupp -- in the eighth, before Tony Zych earned his sixth save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.
Threshers starter Adam Morgan (2-7) gave up all three runs on six hits -- including's Greg Rohan's two-run shot in the first -- and exited with two outs in the fifth.
Playing in his eighth rehab game (and fifth in as many days), Utley went 0-for-3 and is batting .172 as he recovers from tendinitis in his knees. He did steal a base.