Bryan Paukovits is going through something countless Minor League players have dealt with over the years. He's discovering who he is as a pitcher, and what he needs to do to be successful.
That's not an easy process. Paukovits gave up six runs on seven hits in three innings in his season debut April 12 for the Burlington Bees. But Paukovits is learning and adapting.
"My first start, I tried to blow my fastball by everybody," he said. "It didn't work. I missed my spots. I'm trying to work on hitting my spots, working the corners."
Paukovits, 22, did just that and then some Thursday night against the Clinton LumberKings. He threw six hitless innings and earned his first victory of the year in a 4-2 Burlington triumph. He struck out six, walked two and allowed one unearned run.
"I was trying to use my fastball, but it wasn't that consistent [Thursday]," said Paukovits, who was a 44th-round Draft pick in 2006. "But my changeup was good and I was able to keep hitters off balance. Just tried to hit my spots and keep them off balance."
Paukovits has put together two straight starts in which he's kept hitters from getting comfortable in the batter's box. Against Peoria on April 17, he allowed one hit over four innings. He has not allowed an earned run since his first start.
The run Paukovits allowed Thursday was the result of a couple defensive mistakes. He walked James Jones with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and the Bees leading, 4-0. A fielding error by second baseman Deivy Batista allowed Shaver Hansen to reach.
With runners at the corners, a passed ball by catcher William Myers allowed Jones to score, but Paukovits threw out Hansen trying to advance to third to end the inning.
Paukovits shouldered the blame for the run.
"I threw a wild pitch," he said, despite the official scorer's ruling.
Batista made up for his error with three hits and an RBI. Fernando Cruz drove in two runs for the Bees and Joey Lewis added an RBI. Harold Mozingo earned his first save by pitching 1 1/3 perfect innings to close out the game.
Paukovits was 4-3 with a 4.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League in 2009. He struck out 57 batters in 56 innings.