The last time Jon Michael Redding recorded double-digit strikeouts was in his first full season of pro ball. Two years later and armed with a new pitch, the Dodgers prospect looked even more dominant.
Redding recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts over seven innings Saturday as the Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes defeated the Modesto Nuts, 7-3.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave up two runs on four hits and eclipsed by one the team record for strikeouts in a game, set most recently by Steven Shell on Aug. 13, 2004.
"I felt pretty good. I just went out there and tried to attack the zone and use my defense. When I needed the guys behind me to make plays, they did," Redding said. "I stuck to my game plan with [catcher] B.J. LaRosa and we tried to utilize my strengths."
The 2008 fifth-round Draft pick struck out a pair in the first inning and one more in the second. He fanned two batters in each of the next four frames, then struck out the side in the seventh. Twelve of his 14 victims went down swinging.
"Tonight, I definitely spotted the fastball and used my cutter," he explained. "I don't think I threw one changeup. I used my curve ball effectively, but my cutter was definitely my out pitch. I put my pitches in spots where they couldn't do much damage. LaRosa was dropping all the right signs and I liked what he had going. The ball went where I wanted it.
"When they told me I had 14 strikeouts, the first thing I said was that I didn't have any walks."
Redding (7-4) lowered his ERA to 3.35, which ranks fifth in the hitter-friendly California League. The Louisiana State product is averaging just under a punchout an inning, even though he doesn't consider himself a strikeout pitcher.
"Not by any means," he said. "I consider myself to be an 'outs' pitcher. I don't mind if it's a fly ball that somebody catches, I'll take any outs I can get."
Redding's previous high was 11 strikeouts, achieved while pitching for Class A Great Lakes in a 1-0 blanking of Kane County on May 27, 2009. He saw a lot of similarities with that outing -- with one big difference.
"Tonight felt like that game, but I didn't have the cutter back then. I had a slider that was a lot bigger, but I still had a lot of swings and misses in that game," he said.
Redding's cutter is a relatively new pitch that he added to his repertoire a year ago.
"Last year, my pitching coach, Charlie Hough, worked with me and told me that my slider would not be a Major League pitch," Redding said. "We worked with some grips, made the pitch sharper and I got a good feel for it.
"It's sharper in the zone and it doesn't have as big a break to it. It looks more like a four-seam pitch, but I rotate the ball off tilt."
After winning 16 games for Great Lakes in 2009, Redding struggled in his first taste of the Cal League last season, going 4-10 with a 5.56 ERA in 27 appearances. He's unbeaten in his last five starts, however, and has given up two runs or fewer 12 times in 16 outings.
"I just want to keep improving every day," the Georgia native said. "There is always something to work on. There are perfect nights out there and they're called perfect games. I didn't have one of those, so that means I can still keep improving. Now I can look for more success next time out."
Robert Romero struck out three in the eighth for the Quakes and Carlos Frias fanned the final batter after allowing a run on consecutive two-out hits in the ninth.
Modesto's Nick Schnaitmann (3-11) lost his fourth straight start after surrendering six runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out three in 5 2/3 innings.