Brandon Woodruff heard it all about pitching at elevation, but through his first three starts at his new home ballpark, it's evident that he doesn't give it much credence.
Milwaukee's No. 8 prospect didn't allow an earned run for the third time this season, scattering three hits over six shutout innings as Triple-A Colorado Springs downed Nashville, 8-3, on Monday night.
"I just really had the fastball going, working it to both sides of the plate," Woodruff said. "When I'm doing that, my offspeed tends to play off that really well, so that was the main thing, just getting ahead with the fastball and getting it to both sides of the plate. That really got me into some early-contact outs and stuff like that, kind of got me deep into the game."
Video: Colorado Springs' Woodruff rings up fifth K
The Mississippi State product allowed one unearned run in each of his first two outings before being tagged with four runs over five frames Wednesday against Memphis. In his fourth start, Woodruff (4-0) put together a complete night.
After retiring the side in order in the first inning, Woodruff gave up a single to Chris Parmelee to lead off the second before getting Renato Nunez to ground into a double play. After walking Bruce Maxwell, the right-hander retired 12 straight before allowing a single to shortstop Franklin Barreto, the Athletics No. 1 prospect, with two outs in the sixth.
"Right now, it's definitely the fastball," the Tupelo, Mississippi native said of the key to his strong early-season start. "That's been my whole thing my whole career up to this point, getting ahead with that fastball and locating it. That's the thing that's kind of propelled me off to a good start.
"As they say here in Colorado, your breaking stuff doesn't break as well, so you really have to rely on your fastball and being able to pitch to both sides of the plate. I've done a fairly good job of that here at the start of the season."
Barreto's infield single was the start of Woodruff's only jam. Ryan LaMarre followed with a single to left and Mark Canha was hit by a pitch, bringing Parmelee up with the bases loaded.
"I get a couple outs and then there were a couple base hits," he said. "They were on some good pitches and that's baseball. If you keep making some good pitches, eventually the hitters will get themselves out. I really had to dig deep there with the bases loaded. I went 1-0 after the first pitch and I located the fastball. I was fortunate enough that [Parmelee] didn't get a good swing off on it."
Parmelee flied out to center.
Through four starts, Woodruff has posted a 1.61 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, a .200 opponents' batting average and 17 strikeouts while walking six. In Colorado Springs, Woodruff is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, a .234 opponents average, 12 K's and three walks.
"I think it's one of those things where it's more of a mind-set than anything," he said. "Of course, you're going to run into some outings where the balls are going to be flying a little bit more than other days, and that's OK.
"I think it's taking the same mentality that I really took all last year, and that's just attacking guys and trying to get ahead as much as I can. I think that's really been the key here. Don't back down. Come straight after guys, try to get ahead, and good things are going to happen."
Woodruff got help from some of the biggest names in his lineup. MLB.com's No. 16 overall prospect Lewis Brinson had two hits and scored a run while No. 10 Brett Phillips homered to center to lead off the seventh.
At 12-5, Colorado Springs sports the best record in the Pacific Coast League.
"Man, the clubhouse is a blast right now," Woodruff said. "We come in from winning games, and it's all high-fiving and some good music going on. It's definitely a great group of guys. I wouldn't be able to come out here and pitch if it wasn't for the guys behind me playing great defense, guys like Brett and [No. 16 Brewers prospect Ryan Cordell] and Brinson, even all the pitchers and all of our infielders. It's a team thing. We've got a great attitude in the clubhouse, and I think that carries out to the field."
With his team thriving on success, Woodruff has gotten caught up in it.
"It doesn't matter what kind of situations you get in," he said. "Like tonight, everything's going smooth, and then you get into a bases-loaded jam, but you've just got to take it one pitch at a time and know that you're never out of a game. A lot of things can happen with one pitch. That's been the biggest thing out here, just taking it one pitch at a time."