As far as first impressions go, the one Caleb Ferguson made on Saturday at Triple-A was far better than the one he made last month at Double-A.
Making his Pacific Coast League debut, the Dodgers' 16th-ranked prospect struck out 10 and walked three over five scoreless innings of three-hit ball in Oklahoma City's 1-0 loss to Nashville at First Tennessee Park.
Gameday box score
The 2014 38th-rounder threw 96 pitches -- 62 for strikes -- in his first start since May 15 with Tulsa, where he went 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 10 walks over 39 innings across eight starts.
The 21-year-old left-hander began the game strong, whiffing two batters in the first inning and working around light traffic to fan three apiece in the second and third. He allowed one hit and two walks through four frames but ran into trouble in the fifth, giving up consecutive singles to No. 11 Athletics prospect Sheldon Neuse and fourth-ranked Jorge Mateo. After retiring Nick Martini on a fly for the second out, he walked Ramon Laureano to load the bases.
But Ferguson struck out Anthony Garcia to end the inning and cement a scoreless debut.
The move up in class didn't faze the 6-foot-3, 215-pound native of Columbus, Ohio, whose Double-A debut on April 6 lasted just two-thirds of an inning.
"No nerves at all," he said. "I was excited. These guys put their pants on the same way."
Video: Dodgers' Ferguson fans Garcia
Ferguson had Tommy John surgery his senior year at West Jefferson (Ohio) High School and intended to honor a commitment to West Virginia University, but the Dodgers drafted him a few weeks after the operation and signed him for $100,000.
He slowly worked his way back from surgery, going 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA -- partially a result of walking 21 batters in 14 2/3 innings -- over 14 appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2015.
Fully healthy with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga last season, Ferguson led the California League with a 2.87 ERA and finished third with 140 strikeouts.
His walk rate jumped from 0.7 per nine innings in 2016 to 4.0 last year, but this season he's walked 13 over 44 innings. Scouts say his release point can lead to loss of command, but Ferguson disputed that notion.
"I usually try to keep the release point the same," he said. "Every now and then I might yank a pitch, but no problems with that. [It's] nothing mechanical at all and nothing with my delivery. I'm just leading with my fastball and working off that."
Scouts also praise his curveball, and he's started to throw his changeup more frequently than he used to.
"Yeah, [I'm] definitely throwing it a lot more and getting the confidence of using it more in the game. It's been a good pitch for me," he said.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, Oklahoma City couldn't get much done against his counterpart, right-hander Matt Milburn (1-0), who got his first Triple-A win by allowing three hits and fanning four without issuing a walk over six scoreless innings.
Major League veteran Jake Smolinski accounted for the game's only run with a sixth-inning homer off big league left-hander Adam Liberatore.
Despite not factoring in the decision, getting to Triple-A was a win for Ferguson, considering his draft ranking and injury history.
"[I'm] just focusing on what I have to get done," he said. "I don't look at what round a guy has been drafted in -- first round, 40th round or free agent. You don't get here by accident."