An under-the-radar international signing last year, Edwin Uceta showed in extended spring training that even as a teenager he had a pretty good handle on professional baseball. Although his numbers seemed inflated after his first seven starts with Rookie-level Ogden, his performance on Saturday night demonstrated just how good he can be.
The Dodgers prospect was perfect for six innings in the Raptors' 4-0 win over Billings at Dehler Park. Uceta struck out five in his longest outing as a pro, lowering his ERA to 7.39 in eight starts.
Gameday box score
"I thought all his pitches worked really well," Ogden pitching coach Bobby Cuellar said. "He was just back and forth in and out and doing the things that get you six perfect innings."
Singed out of the Dominican Republic last July, Uceta appeared in 11 games in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and compiled a 1.72 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .175 batting average. He's had a difficult time with his second assignment to the Pioneer League this season, allowing 23 runs over 22 innings before Saturday.
"When you come over here, you come to this league and you're facing college guys, you got to get used to that stuff," Cuellar said. "We noticed something about his delivery and ever since he slipped that little flaw that he has, he's thrown really well. He's done a really good job for us."
Although Uceta had a pair of scoreless outings this season, Cuellar and the Dodgers' pitching coordinators in Arizona who viewed video of the 19-year-old's delivery determined that he had a mechanical issue in which he was throwing across his body and leaving pitches up in the strike zone.
"His arm slot and where he throws from was kind of blocking his delivery a little bit," Cuellar said. "As soon as he saw it, he worked on it and started adjusting to it -- not be so blocked off on his landing foot and his arm slot started repeating and his pitches started coming back."
Against the Mustangs, Uceta threw 37 of 64 pitches for strikes to retire all 18 batters he faced. He recorded six outs on the ground and seven through the air, with Cuellar saying he displayed brilliant execution of a three-pitch mix that consisted of a fastball, changeup and curve.
"He's always had really good command of the fastball and his changeup has really good arm action and his curveball was in the strike zone enough early," Cuellar said. "The three combination pitches all worked really well and at the end, the last guy he struck out he threw two fastballs right by him."
Devin Hemmerich took over in the seventh inning with the game still scoreless and issued three walks over two innings to spoil the perfect game. Matt Jones got two outs in the ninth before giving up the Mustangs' first hit, a triple to right by leadoff man Satchel McElroy.
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"Really and truly, you can't complain here when you have a night like that," Cuellar said. "You just take it one at a time. In baseball, it's a game. Our defense made some really nice plays to save that thing."
Jones (2-1) stranded McElroy at third, struck out Zeke White in the ninth and walked Andy Sugillo on five pitches before exiting with an undisclosed arm injury. The Dodgers converted Jones to a pitcher after the 23-year-old spent the last three seasons as a first baseman.
Ogden broke through in the 10th on consecutive singles by Ramon Rodriguez, Kevin Lachance, Brayan Morales and Mitchell Hansen. One out later, Luis Paz and Tyler Adkison delivered back-to-back RBI singles.