After starting the year as a middle reliever in the St. Lucie bullpen, southpaw Darin Gorski is quickly establishing himself in the heart of the rotation.
Gorski allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out a career-high 13 batters over 7 2/3 innings in the St. Lucie Mets' 5-1 win at home over the Dunedin Blue Jays on Thursday.
"I would say this was my best start since I turned pro. Not even with how the game went, just the way I felt and how I commanded my pitches," he said. "I think I would have to go back to college for the last time I struck out 13 batters.
"My bullpen felt good warming up, but it wasn't anything outstanding. You just can't really tell until you get out there."
Gorski (2-0) lowered his ERA to 2.16 in the victory and he has allowed just two earned runs over his last four outings. He has struck out 63 batters over 41 2/3 innings and has surrendered more than two runs in just one of his 11 games in the Florida State League this year.
On Thursday, the 23-year-old set down the first nine batters he faced before Kenny Wilson led off the fourth inning with a single to right field. Wilson then swiped second with one out to give Gorski his first real test of the evening, but he retired the final two batters to extinguish the threat.
Gorski used an inning-ending double play to work around Brian Van Kirk's base hit in the fifth inning and he struck out the side -- all looking -- to help New York's Class A Advanced affiliate carry a 3-0 lead through the sixth.
"I was locating the ball down, and when I got ahead of hitters, I was able to expand the zone," Gorski explained. "I tried to mix the pitches up as much as possible and then work in and out.
"I would say that I could throw everything for strikes tonight and I didn't have to shy away from anything. They were as aggressive as any team in the league, but throwing all of my pitches for strikes made them keep guessing."
Dunedin broke through in the seventh inning on Brad Glenn's two-out solo homer to left field.
"It was not where I wanted to throw the slider, but he is a big guy and he got his bat to it so hats off to him," Gorski said. "I still felt good, and mechanically, I had good direction. I could have finished it out if they had asked me to."
Selected by the New York Mets in the seventh round of the 2009 Draft, Gorski struck out two more batters in the eighth, one on either side of a one-out walk to Ryan Goins. Nicholas Carr came in to get the final out of the frame and he worked around a base hit in the ninth to seal the victory.
The Pennsylvania native began the year in the bullpen and his first four appearances came in relief. Five days after picking up his first save of the season against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, St. Lucie stretched Gorski out as a starter and he struck out 10 batters over four innings in St. Lucie's 7-5 loss to the Jupiter Hammerheads on May 2.
Since then, Gorski has made three more starts and one five-inning relief outing, but he doesn't seem to mind the lack of a defined role.
"I don't really see much difference," the Kutztown University product said. "You have to get locked in quicker as a reliever and you have that preparation period before you go out there as a starter, but you still need three strikes to get an out.
"The guys we put out there do a fantastic job and they make it easy to pitch anywhere."