In 2014, Brock Stewart was drafted by the Dodgers. Now he's one step away from the big leagues. As much as the Los Angeles' No. 26 prospect has enjoyed his quick ascension, even he is having a hard time understanding just how quickly it's happened.
"Honestly, it has been fast," Stewart said. "The other day our pitching coordinator, Rick Knapp, said to me, 'You know, I met you two years ago at [Rookie-level] Ogden.' It was really crazy to hear him say that. It seems like yesterday that I was drafted, but here I am. I'm blessed and fortunate to be where I am now, but I'm not all the way there yet."
In his third start with Triple-A Oklahoma City, the 24-year-old right-hander fanned a career-high 10 for the second straight game as the host Dodgers beat the Round Rock Express, 8-2, on Friday night. He allowed two runs on four hits and a walk over six innings.
Stewart has won all three of his starts since his promotion to Triple-A, fanning 27 and walking two in 18 2/3 innings. He sports a 3-0 record and a 2.89 ERA. The Illinois native said he's a bit surprised with what he's done so far in the Pacific Coast League.
"A little bit, to be honest," Stewart said. "But I'm confident in my stuff and I'm confident I'll get guys out. It should be the norm for me. I try to not focus on the numbers, but at the same time, it is a little surprising, especially because I just got to this level."
The Illinois native shook off a first-inning run on Brett Nicholas' RBI single by striking out the side. Stewart worked around a single by Drew Robinson and third baseman Zach Walters' fielding error and added two more whiffs in the second. He allowed a leadoff homer to Delino DeShields in the third, but retired 12 of his last 13 batters, surrendering his lone walk with one out in the fifth. He struck out his last four hitters.
"I'm usually good with my fastball," Stewart said. "But my changeup was really, really effective. I was able to get guys to roll over it in tight spots, and I also generated quite a few swings-and-misses with it. I think maybe seven of my strikeouts were on the change. My slider is continuing to improve, and I threw some good ones tonight as well. Really, everything was working, but the biggest thing was my fastball command and being able to pitch off that."
The 2014 sixth-round pick made two starts for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga before he was promoted to Double-A Tulsa. Stewart had a 3-3 record and a 1.12 ERA in nine starts with the Drillers before his promotion to Triple-A on June 10. Overall, the Illinois State product is 8-3 with a 1.47 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 86 innings. He's also one call away from the big leagues.
"Well, I've always been hungry to get there," Stewart said. "The closer you get, the hungrier you get. It's always in the back of my mind, but honestly, I just come to the park each day and try to get better. If I'm not pitching, I go through my throwing and workout programs and try and do everything the right way and to the best of my abilities.
"I'm not too focused on the Majors even though I realize it's the next step. I just need to take care of stuff now and then let that happen when it happens. I'll let the people who make that decision decide when I'm ready. I'll just come to the park and try to do my best every day."
Sam LeCure allowed one hit and struck out two over two scoreless innings of relief before Matt West tossed a scoreless ninth.
Dodgers' No. 13 prospect Micah Johnson had two hits and a walk while Zach Walters and Chris Taylor drove in two runs apiece.
In his third Triple-A start, Round Rock's Richelson Pena (0-1) was roughed up for seven runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits and a walk while fanning three in 3 1/3 innings.