Frisco pitching coach Greg Hibbard noticed Ariel Jurado working with more purpose on Friday, from his first pregame stretch to the final pitch that left his fingertips.
That's the invigorating feeling pitching in The Show for the first time can bring out in a young right-hander.
Less than a week after making his Major League debut, the Rangers' 19th-ranked prospect needed only 86 pitches to go the distance for the first time in his professional career, tossing a six-hitter as Double-A Frisco blanked Arkansas, 2-0, at Dickey-Stephens Park. He recorded just one strikeout but did not walk a batter.
Gameday box score
"He just had so much more confidence today," Hibbard said. "I think those are the kind of things that allow pitchers to grow -- when they get a taste of what they really want."
Jurado (2-1) induced 15 groundouts, including 10 over the first five frames. He worked out of minor trouble in the second and fifth, forcing Chris Mariscal to ground into double plays to erase a pair of one-out singles by Joey Curletta.
The 22-year-old allowed two runners to reach scoring position. He fanned Mariscal in the seventh after back-to-back two-out singles, then stranded Beau Amaral at second after a leadoff double in the ninth.
"Commanding his sinker at the bottom of the zone and not pitching to the edges a whole lot allows the hitters to be a little more aggressive, and they just didn't make any adjustments to make him pitch more," Hibbard said. "They were just attacking early in the counts and he was able to keep his sinker down and get them to hit the top of the ball."
The native of Panama has matured rapidly this season, according to HIbbard, who is serving as his pitching coach for the first time. Texas challenged Jurado with smoothing his delivery, allowing him to use his two-seam fastball -- which sits at 90-92 mph -- on both sides of the plate.
The results have shown. After allowing five earned runs over 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts of the season, he's pitched at least six frames in each of his next five outings.
"Part of being a pitcher is knowing who you are," Hibbard said. "It's taken him, probably, over the last six or seven starts this year, he's starting to really figure out who he can be and who he is. Not to say he can't strike guys out, but [he's] letting the guys get themselves out a little more. Keeping the ball down in the zone is another way to get outs and it's a lot more efficient if you can do it consistently, and he's starting to figure out [throwing] his two-seam fastball to both sides of the plate allows him to be a little more efficient."
What's more, Hibbard posed an in-game challenge to Jurado: throw his curveball for strikes. He was 6-for-6 on that off-speed offering on Friday, according to the pitching coach.
"That's something that's impressive for a 22-year-old kid," Hibbard said. "Not only to remember it, but to execute it."
Jurado took a loss in his Major League debut, allowing four runs -- all with two outs in the third -- on six hits over 4 2/3 innings in a spot start against the White Sox. Hibbard watched the start the next day, and what impressed him most was the youngster working a 1-2-3 fourth inning after being roughed up in the third.
"One of the things I was most proud [of] was that his mound presence was very composed and he stayed in control," Hibbard said.
If Jurado keeps shoving like he did on Friday, a callup to Triple-A appears likely, and a permanent spot in the Texas rotation is a possibility.
"I think that's something that he would probably give us the timetable for," Hibbard said. "When you want to move guys up is when they don't feel like they're challenged, and if he can rattle off another game or two like this one, where he consistently put the ball on the ground, it's time to challenge him with some different hitters."
The RoughRiders provided him just enough run support, with Preston Beck slapping a two-out RBI triple to center field in the fourth and Michael De Leon singling home Carlos Garay, who led off the sixth with a double.
Curletta accounted for half of the Travelers' hits, going 3-for-3.