Julio Rodriguez is on the line, riding with his victorious Phillies teammates on a bus from New Britain, Conn., back to Reading, Pa., and he doesn't seem to be basking in the glory of his second consecutive scoreless outing or third straight win.
"I need to throw more first-pitch strikes," he says, as if dictating his to-do-when-I-get-home list. "I have to go ahead, at hitters."
That's because Rodriguez knows his recipe for success Sunday will soon go stale.
The Phillies' No. 16 prospect overcame five walks to pitch six one-hit innings in Double-A Reading's 6-4 triumph over the Rock Cats.
"[There are] a couple of things with the windup I'm working on with the pithcing coach -- staying back and stay more balanced," Rodriguez said, "because, sometimes, I go too quick to [home plate]."
That's what happened at the start of Sunday's matinee. Eight of Rodriguez's first 10 pitches landed outside the strike zone as he walked the bases loaded in the first inning.
Five of his first six pitches to start the second also were balls as the 21-year-old right-hander issued his fourth free pass and plunked a batter.
"I just [started to] feel more comfortable, more confident," Rodriguez said, "and that's when I throw my pitches better."
Rodriguez went on to retire the next nine batters before allowing his fifth and final walk to James Beresford leading off the fifth. Beresford advanced to second on a sacrifice, took third on a passed ball and scored an unearned run on Aaron Hicks' sacrifice fly.
Still, Rodriguez carried his no-hit bid into the sixth. It ended two outs later when Nate Hanson lined a 2-2 offering into center field.
"I throw one good fastball and [Hanson] just [used] his hands and hit it good," Rodriguez said.
Asked if the no-hitter was on his mind, he replied, "Not really. I don't think that [way]; I just pitch."
Rodriguez (3-0) threw 50 of 96 pitches for strikes. He fanned three and was content with the command of his changeup, which has been erratic of late.
A lack of control hasn't really hindered Rodriguez yet. He has walked three or four batters in four of his seven starts but is 3-0 and ranks 10th in the Eastern League with a 2.25 ERA. In fact, he hasn't allowed an earned run since April 27, when Portland's Juan Carlos Linares homered in the final inning of his six-inning stint. The last 16 frames? Zilch.
Walks were less of an issue for Rodriguez last year, his fourth in pro ball. The 2008 eighth-round Draft pick out of Puerto Rico won 16 of 27 starts while compiling a 2.76 ERA and a 168-56 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Class A Advanced Clearwater. Rodriguez said he hasn't noticed a great degree of difference a level up.
"I just do what I do last year," he said. "I just keep doing the same."
The Phils scored twice in the sixth, seventh and eighth to give Rodriguez his third win.
Phillies No. 19 prospect Jiwan James and Troy Hanzawa led the charge with three-hit games, with Hanzawa driving in three runs.
Rock Cats starter Andrew Albers (1-1) was charged with three runs on seven hits over six-plus frames.