Oakland southpaw Dillon Overton knew sooner or later he was going to get hit hard. But for him, the bigger question was how long it would take him to bounce back from such a setback.
The answer was six days.
Oakland's No. 5 prospect allowed one hit and a walk while striking out six batters over five scoreless innings in the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports' 6-5 win over the visiting Lancaster Jethawks at Banner Island Ballpark on Wednesday evening.
"I would most likely say it was one of the better outings of my career," said Overton, who did not factor in the decision. "I knew after my last outing I had to throw better to give the bullpen a rest. I was hitting my spots and everything worked out."
The 23-year-old threw 39 of 67 pitches for strikes and faced one batter over the minimum in lowering his California League ERA to 3.38. The second batter of the game, Alfredo Gonzalez, recorded the only hit against Overton -- a one-out double -- before Overton went on to retire the final 13 batters he faced.
In eight previous games this year, including seven starts, Overton was 1-0 with a 3.90 ERA. He allowed more than one run just once in his first seven appearances -- he surrendered four runs, two earned, in his second start of the year against Visalia on April 18 -- but he struggled last Thursday.
Facing Bakersfield for the second time in three weeks, Overton got rocked for eight runs on 10 hits -- both career highs -- over two innings, the shortest outing of his pro career.
"I didn't think as much," said the 2013 second-round pick. "It was the most runs I've ever given up in one outing in my life. It was tough. When a team like that gets rolling, it's hard to stop them.
"Baseball is a huge game of facing adversity no matter what. You know at some point you're going to get hit, whether it's this time, next week or five years from now and you have to know how to handle it and come back in a positive way. Last week was a learning experience for me."
Last year, Overton went 0-3 with a 1.95 ERA in 12 starts between two levels. He struck out 53 batters and issued just four walks over a combined 37 innings with the Athletics' Arizona League affiliate and Class A Short Season Vermont.
The 6-foot-2 hurler continued to impress in the first seven weeks of the season, finding ways to get hitters out even though his fastball was sometimes up to 8 mph slower than it was at the University in Oklahoma, when he was hitting 95 mph prior to Tommy John surgery in 2013.
Part of that success can be attributed to the changeup, a pitch that was working especially well Wednesday night for the Weatherford, Oklahoma native.
"Since the beginning of Spring Training, I've been consistently 87-91, but I'm not really paying attention to that because when [the velocity] comes back, it will come back," Overton said. "Almost every time I throw my changeup, it is 10 mph off my fastball."
He throws two types of changeups, one straight and one that moves away from righties and into lefties. The grip is the same for each and he throws both out of the same arm slot as his fastball to add to the deception.
To generate movement on the changeup, Overton rotates his hand and wrist slightly prior to release, creating additional spin that causes it to cut. He primarily throws that to right-handers because he doesn't want to risk running it into the meat of the bat of a southpaw. For them, he just slows down his arm speed by a fraction to get the ball to move straight down instead of right-to-left.
"I threw a lot more fastballs tonight [than on Thursday] to try and get my fastball percentage up, but there were a few situations where they were so far out in front of the changeup that I kept throwing it," Overton said.
Stockton center fielder Brett Vertigan went 3-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored and right fielder Tyler Marincov added his fifth homer of the year.
Lancaster starter Daniel Mengden surrendered four runs on eight hits, three walks, three wild pitches, a balk and a hit batsman. He recorded four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings, but did not factor in the decision. JetHawks center fielder James Ramsey homered twice and plated five runs out of the leadoff spot.