After making noise in big league camp this spring and skipping a level, Trevor Rosenthal is showing he belongs at Double-A.
The Cardinals prospect turned in one of his best starts of the season Tuesday, holding Arkansas to an unearned run on one hit over six innings for his third victory as Double-A Springfield edged the host Travelers, 3-1.
"Always happy to get the win, I worked well with my catcher, and my defense made some good plays, too," Rosenthal said.
St. Louis' No. 7-ranked prospect settled in after allowing an early run to pick up his second win three starts. He struck out four and walked three, improving to 3-4 and lowering his ERA to 3.29 in the Texas League.
"I mixed my pitches pretty well -- curveball, slider, fastball -- trying to work down in the zone, work ahead on these guys," the 21-year-old said. "I feel like, from what I've seen at this level, if you keep the ball down in the zone, you'll get a lot of groundball outs."
Rosenthal did exactly that -- the right-hander from Lee's Summit, Mo., faced 23 batters, inducing 10 grounders in his eighth career Double-A start. It was arguably his best outing since he allowed an early unearned run on one hit over 8 2/3 innings for Class A Quad Cities on July 23, 2011.
"[Today] was a little similar to last year, but I was able to go a little deeper into the games then," Rosenthal said, comparing his win Tuesday to the Quad Cities gem. "I had some at-bats where they worked my count up, but I felt the same type of focus, I battled and executed my pitches."
The 2009 21st-round pick worked with runners on base in every inning but the sixth, when he turned in a 1-2-3 frame before handing the ball to Jesse Simpson. A throwing error by third baseman Jermaine Curtis and a single by Casey Haerther scored Roberto Lopez in the first for Arkansas' lone run.
That would be the only hit the Angels affiliate would manage against Rosenthal, who worked six innings for just the second time this season. He pitched around a two-out walk to Jose Jimenez in the second, stranded Lopez on first after a two-out error in the third and, after walking Adam Heether to begin the fourth, he fielded a comebacker to start a 1-6-3 double play from Darwin Perez.
"He hit a comebacker to me -- I had a few other comebackers -- but I was kinda ready. I was able to find the shortstop. Greg [Garcia] made a good play at the bag -- so that was huge for me," he said.
Jimenez walked to lead off the fifth and advanced to second on Angel Castillo's sacrifice bunt, but Rosenthal -- with his first runner in scoring position since the first inning -- buckled down and got Angels top prospect Jean Segura and Renny Osuna to both fly to right to end the frame. He punched out Haerther for his final strikeout in the sixth before retiring Adam Heether for the final out.
"I was wanting to get through that inning quick. I was hoping they'd let me go out again [for the seventh]," he said. "I always just try to have quick innings."
Rosenthal got some needed run support in the fifth when Curtis hit a one-out double and scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball by Jimenez. Simpson then held the Travs to one hit over two frames and Eric Fornataro worked around a walk in the ninth for his third save to seal the combined two-hitter.
Rosenthal hit 98 mph during a strong showing in Major League Spring Training this year with St. Louis, prompting the organization to have him skip Class A Advanced Palm Beach and join Springfield. He impressed after a 2011 campaign in which he won seven games and ranked sixth in the Midwest League with 133 strikeouts.
As for the Texas League, it's been a breeze so far.
"I heard some things going in, didn't know what to expect, but I thought it'd be a little bit tougher," he said. "It's been fun overall, so far its been a good learning experience, just being around different, better competition, my game is going to keep getting elevated playing against these caliber players. The players, the umpires, everyone seems to get better at this level."
Rosenthal seems to be included in that. He's allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his eight starts this season and has 39 strikeouts in 41 innings.
"I've been working on my changeup and integrating a cutter, but not just those pitches -- overall I'm feeling out the game and throwing pitches in certain spots. I think the hitters are more patient, they don't really swing at many bad pitches," he said. "Especially early in the count, they have a lot more discipline."
Rosenthal, besides throwing a high-90s fastball, has a curve, a change and the cutter, which he said is basically what some may call his slider. He had plenty of time to take notes to help improve his arsenal this spring in Jupiter, Fla.
"It was awesome," Rosenthal said of his invitation to Major League camp following St. Louis' World Series championship. "One of the -- by far the best baseball experience I've had in my life so far. I soaked up a lot from the veteran guys and coaching staff -- they're really open to working with me."