Odorizzi nearly untouchable for Bulls

Rays No. 3 prospect tosses eight innings; Durham falls in 14th

Jake Odorizzi is tied for ninth in the International League with 66 strikeouts. (Joe Territo/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | June 23, 2013 2:57 PM ET

While the innings count on the scoreless marathon between Triple-A Durham and Buffalo was reaching double digits Sunday afternoon, Jake Odorizzi was back in the Bulls clubhouse, working on shoulder exercises. He followed the comings and goings, hesitant to return to the dugout due to a slight issue with his jersey.

"My stuff was pretty soaked with sweat," he joked. "I didn't really want to put that jersey back on."

You can hardly blame him. He'd already put in quite a day's work.

Odorizzi tossed a career-high eight scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out six before the Bulls dropped a 1-0, 14-inning decision to the Bisons.

"It was all about attacking the zone," said the Rays' No. 3 prospect, who threw 63 of 94 pitches in lowering his ERA to 3.41. "Each inning, I knew I just had to come after these guys and mix my speeds, just throw as many strikes as possible. Luckily, I was able to throw everything for a strike, and that made everything else so much easier."

Odorizzi faced the minimum through four innings, with only Kevin Pillar's walk in the first and rehabbing Blue Jay Jose Reyes' single in the fourth the only blemishes.

"I felt good warming up in the bullpen beforehand and still felt pretty good coming out to start there," the 23-year-old right-hander said. "It's always nice when that feeling transfers to the game. I just kept pitching to contact, and the defense behind me was really strong. That always makes you very comfortable up on the mound when they have your back."

One of those special defensive plays actually came from Odorizzi himself. In the sixth, Reyes lined a 3-1 offering right back at his ankles, only to have the hurler snare it for the inning's final out.

The Bulls and Odorizzi needed plays like that, given the way Todd Redmond was dealing for the Bisons. The 28-year-old right-hander yielded three hits and a walk while posting zeros for six innings.

"I saw him out there, doing his thing, and it just kind of pushes you to keep it going yourself," Odorizzi said. "You could tell runs were at a premium today. I just wanted to give my team a chance to win and keep it even as the game went along."

The Illinois native was up to the task in what amounted to his second straight strong performance, albeit at a different level. As the 26th man on the Tampa Bay roster in Tuesday's doubleheader at Fenway Park, he limited the Red Sox to a run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings in the Rays' 3-1 loss.

Although the start didn't produce a win for the big league club, Odorizzi found some pretty big positives in his fourth Major League appearance this year -- ones he carried into Sunday afternoon at Coca Cola Field.

"It definitely gave me more confidence to leave the team on a good note like that," said the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 Draft, who owns a 6.00 ERA in the Majors this season. "It showed both them and myself that I really can pitch up there and especially in an atmosphere like that [at Fenway]. And like they say, pitching down here -- well, it's not easier, but if you can pitch up there, you can pitch down here. I just have to keep attacking, attacking, attacking and I'll get those results anywhere."

The result for now is a pitcher who believes he's more confident than at any point this season, which could be a scary thought for International League or even American League hitters.

"It's obviously very encouraging to get a couple outings like this in a row," Odorizzi said. "I have more confidence in myself now than earlier this year, and that's definitely something I'll carry with me going into my next start, wherever that is."

Sunday's marathon finally ended in the 11th when Bulls reliever Juan Sandoval mishandled a bunt attempt by Ricardo Nanita, allowing Mike Nickeas to score from second.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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