Ryan Borucki's introduction to the Eastern League couldn't have gone much better.
Making his Double-A debut on Sunday, the Blue Jays' No. 16 prospect allowed two hits and a pair of walks while striking out four over seven scoreless innings as New Hampshire edged Trenton, 2-1, at Arm & Hammer Park.
"The biggest key to making the jump is to keep attacking and throwing strikes so that the hitters can put the ball in play," Borucki said after his third quality start in four outings. "Usually when a pitcher gets in trouble is when he isn't filling up the zone and is working behind in counts. Before the game, I told myself to get ahead and let the hitters get themselves out instead of me helping them out. That was the biggest key tonight -- attacking the hitters with strikes."
Borucki opened the game with a three-pitch strikeout of Yankees No. 3 prospect Jorge Mateo en route to a 1-2-3 first inning. He used a double play and a strikeout to work around a single and a walk in the second.
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"The [Mateo strikeout] helped the nerves a little bit," he said. "It was just one of those things where I tried to make sure the emotions didn't get the best of me. I tried to calm myself and had to step off a few times to take a few deep breaths, but after that first inning I started to feel more confident and was able to let the ball keep rolling."
The ball didn't leave the infield against Borucki in a clean third, and the 23-year-old posted another 1-2-3 frame in the fourth. Borucki leaned heavily on a slider that he started throwing a few weeks ago.
"When I was in the Florida State League, [Dunedin pitching coach] Mark Riggins showed me a visual cue to help me with my slider," he said. "I'm a visual learner, so once I saw it and felt it, it kept building and building. The last couple of starts with Dunedin it got a lot better and I could use it in situations that I never could before. Having a third pitch definitely helps a lot to keep them off my fastball and my changeup."
Borucki needed to be sharp all afternoon because Trenton starter Daniel Camarena was matching the southpaw zero for zero.
Video: New Hampshire's Borucki finishes the seventh
"I like when the game is like that because you kind of stay in a groove," Borucki said. "I knew there wouldn't be a lot of runs, so I just wanted to keep us within striking distance. I kind of like when it's up and down, up and down and there isn't much rest. That way, I stay warm and in a groove."
After sandwiching two strikeouts around a single by Jhalan Jackson in the seventh, the 2012 15th-round pick got Zack Zehner to ground out to end the inning. It was the 12th ground-ball out Borucki recorded, compared to one fly ball.
"Coming into this year, I never really knew what down [in the zone] really was," said Borucki, who threw 54 of 85 pitches for strikes. "Coach Riggins really preached staying down when I was in the Florida State League and I started seeing a lot more ground-ball outs. I've been focusing all year on keeping everything down. If I lose on 10 singles, that's just how things go."
Despite the encouraging debut, Borucki noted one part of his game he needs to improve.
"There were a couple of locations I missed," the 6-foot-4, 175-pounder said. "My changeup is my best pitch and I need to raise it up a bit. I was throwing it a little low and they weren't really biting on it. Facing better hitters, they won't bite on as many bad pitches, so I need to adjust to that a little bit."
The Blue Jays promoted Borucki from Dunedin on Thursday. Before moving up, the Illinois native struck out 109 over 98 innings and had a 3.58 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 19 games, including 18 starts.
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Borucki exited a scoreless game and the teams traded runs until the 11th, when Blue Jays No. 21 prospect Danny Jansen raced home on a throwing error by shortstop Thairo Estrada. That made a winner of Justin Shafer (3-2), who tossed three hitless innings.
Camarena yielded three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in six frames for the Thunder.