After a hamstring injury stalled him out of the gates, Dillon Tate (2-2) is starting to put things together.
The Rangers' third-ranked prospect allowed three hits while matching a career high by going six innings in Class A Hickory's 1-0 win over Kannapolis at Intimidators Stadium on Thursday.
"It was a pretty good start," Hickory manager Steve Mintz said. "The stuff that he and [Hickory pitching coach] Jose Jaimes have been working on, like correcting a couple things with his mechanics and having him be able to repeat his delivery, showed up during the game. Tonight, he was able to repeat his delivery all night and was able to use the slider on the inside part of the plate well."
Tate started the game with a 1-2-3 first inning and worked around a walk to Seby Zavala in the second. Antonio Rodriguez singled off the 2015 first-round pick to lead off the third, but quickly erased the threat by inducing a 6-4-3 double play. Mintz was particularly happy with how Tate was able to handle himself in a jam.
"He was able to limit damage well," he said. "That was especially important because we couldn't allow any damage with the score being 1-0. He made the big pitch to keep them from scoring. It was good to see him out go out there and give his team a chance to win like that. He kept us in the game."
After starting the year without allowing a run over his first 10 2/3 innings, a strained hamstring landed Tate on the DL on April 20. MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect struggled in his first few starts back and saw his ERA rise to 7.23 on May 27. Since then, he's shaved it down to 5.35.
"Once these guys get out of their norm, it can kind of mess with them a little bit," Mintz said. "I don't know how much of his struggles you can put on the injury, but Tate works so hard and he's a pretty smart kid. He knows what's going on and understands the business. He's on the right track. He's learning and eventually he'll get to the point where he's dominating this league and moves up to the next one."
In the meantime, Tate will be working on refining his changeup to work off an already impressive fastball-slider combination. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Mintz is convinced it will soon be a weapon for the 22-year-old right-hander.
"His changeup is starting to show some good signs," he said. "He'll work one or two in on a hitter and you'll sit there and just know that it has a good chance to be a big league pitch. He still needs to work on it a little more, but he's doing all the right things to grow as a starting pitcher."
Omarlin Lopez didn't allow a hit over two frames and John Werner closed out the final inning for his fifth save.
Josh Altmann plated the game's lone run with an RBI double to center field in the second inning.