Spruill looks the part in Aces debut

D-backs prospect allows one unearned run in 5 2/3 frames

Zeke Spruill owns a 1.21 ERA between two levels so far this season. (David Calvert)

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | May 2, 2013 10:00 PM ET

Zeke Spruill was in the middle of a mini-golf tournament when he got the call from Double-A Mobile manager Andy Green that he'd be moving up to Triple-A Reno. With more than a dozen holes left to play, he finished his round. Just business as usual.

On Thursday, he took that same approach to the mound in his first start for the Aces, and the results were very good. As usual.

The D-backs' No. 9 prospect allowed just one unearned run on four hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings to lead Reno to a 5-1 win over Las Vegas at Aces Ballpark.

The night also marked the 6-foot-5 right-hander's first victory of the season. He was 0-3 with a 1.42 ERA in five starts with Mobile before being promoted as a result of Evan Marshall's trip to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Although the night marked a career first, Spruill downplayed the significance of the achievement.

"It was just like any other day really," he said. "All I want to do is compete and give my team a chance to win, and I was able to do that tonight."

Spruill, who came to the D-backs from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal during the offseason, didn't think he had his full arsenal in the early going. After going through his pregame bullpen session, he felt his offspeed pitches -- splitter, slider, changeup -- weren't quite working as they should and had to go for a different gameplan.

"I knew at that point I needed to pound the zone with my fastball and get my two-seamer working," he said. "I wasn't really worried though because that's usually a plus for me anyways. … It's always nice to revert back to one pitch that you know works well."

The 23-year-old recovered his offspeed offerings in the early innings, and the whole recovered package held the 51s at bay the rest of the night. The only trouble came in the third inning when three straight Las Vegas hitters reached -- two on errors -- with one out before Wilmer Flores singled in the team's only run of the night. After loading the bases by walking Zach Lutz, Spruill escaped the jam by getting Landon Powell to ground out to first to end the inning.

The ground ball was Spruill's biggest friend in the win -- not a surprise given his reputation as a sinkerball-type hurler. In total, 11 of his 17 outs came on the ground before his night finished after 105 pitches, 64 for strikes.

Even if it is his main strength, the right-hander wanted to put extra emphasis on the grounder Thursday, given what he saw in Reno the day before. The 51s took a 14-8 decision over the Aces in a contest that featured 12 extra-base hits between the two clubs.

"Tonight definitely put my nerves and doubts at ease, I guess," Spruill said. "I was a little nervous mostly because of how well the ball flew out of here yesterday. … Thankfully, ground balls don't carry."

Now with his first Triple-A win under his belt, the Virginia native doesn't expect to return to the Southern League, where he spent parts of the past three seasons, any time soon.

"I plan on being here or higher than here for the rest of the year," he said.

Outfielder Brad Snyder hit a two-run homer in the fifth. D-backs' No. 4 prospect Matt Davidson added a triple, a double, an RBI and a run.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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