Daniel Poncedeleon doesn't want to be portrayed as the subject for some inspirational comeback story this season. He just wants to be Daniel.
The Cardinals prospect, who suffered a brain injury last season after being struck in the head by a line drive, was unflappable in his third appearance since returning from the traumatic injury. He recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts and allowed one run on five hits over five innings in Triple-A Memphis' 3-1 win over Iowa on Saturday at AutoZone Park.
Gameday box score
"I just try and tell everyone, 'I'm the same me, same everything,'" Poncedeleon said. "I don't want to make too big of a deal of it. I am very thankful, though, especially for the Iowa Cubs and the fans that I met for how generous they were [last year]."
The Cardinals prospect was hit by comebacker off the bat of Cubs catcher Victor Caratini in a game against Iowa last May 9, prompting Poncedeleon to be rushed by ambulance to a hospital for emergency brain surgery. He recovered quickly enough for Major League Spring Training and Opening Day, adorned with a new carbon fiber insert in his cap for added protection, similar to the one used by Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker.
When the injury occurred, Poncedeleon felt the love from the Iowa fanbase. Several fans reached out to him and a even even pitched in to rent his wife, Jennifer, a car to help her get around Des Moines. Cartini and his wife, Janise, cooked a couple meals for Poncedeleon while he was on bedrest to spare him from eating solely hospital food.
"They're a very generous team and there's a ton of good people on that side," Poncedeleon said.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander improved to 1-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.82 ERA through his first three appearances of the season. He pitched one inning in relief on April 5 before making his first start on Monday.
"My fastball was playing well up in the zone today and they were swinging," Poncedeleon said. "I had some success with it."
Video: Cards' prospect Poncedeleon fans career-high 12
Poncedeleon is picking up where he left off in 2017, as the Embry-Riddle product was 2-0 with a 2.17 ERA in six starts with the Redbirds before suffering the injury.
His only blemish on Saturday came when Cubs' No. 14 prospect David Bote -- the second batter of the game -- slugged a home run to center field to open the scoring. Poncedeleon stranded a pair of baserunners in the second, third and fifth, ending each inning with a strikeout.
"I threw a cutter that was supposed to go on the corner and it was just right down the middle and the guy, Bote, hit the ball about as far as you could probably hit the ball." Poncedeleon said of the homer. "After that, I decided not to throw any more of what we call 'cement mixers' down the middle."
Memphis scored two runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a throwing error with the bases loaded, and added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single by Cardinals No. 11 prospect Randy Arozarena. Oscar Mercado was 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the Redbirds.
Preston Guilmet earned his third save with a scoreless ninth inning.
Iowa starter Duane Underwood Jr. (0-1) took the loss, allowing two unearned runs on four hits over five innings while striking out six.