Officially, Kyle Lotzkar's first Double-A victory came as a reliever. Unofficially, the right-handed Cincinnati pitching prospect turned in one of the longest, and best, outings of his career.
Lotzkar (1-1) scattered a pair of hits while striking out six batters over 6 1/3 innings in Double-A Pensacola's 8-0 rout of Birmingham on Sunday afternoon. He also walked five batters.
"It was huge. It tells me I can compete at this level which is pretty exciting," Lotzkar said of his first Southern League win. "It gives me a lot of confidence going into my next start.
"Playing with guys with lots of experience and having a catcher like Koyie Hill who's been in the Majors is cool."
Game 2 of the Blue Wahoos' three-game series with the Barons started Saturday, but it was suspended after just five outs because of rain. When the game resumed in the bottom of the first inning almost 24 hours later, Lotzkar -- originally scheduled to toe the rubber in the finale -- was handed the ball, with Mark Serrano called on for a spot start in the second half of the doubleheader.
The Reds' supplemental first-round pick in the 2007 Draft fanned two batters to work around a one-out walk in the second, and he stranded Tyler Saladino -- who led off the third with a walk and stole second base -- in the following frame.
Lotzkar was perfect in the fourth and fifth, and he relied on a strikeout of Jared Mitchell for the final out of the sixth after loading the bases on three free passes.
In the seventh, the 22-year-old native of British Columbia erased Kenneth Williams' one-out single with an inning-ending double play. After retiring Saladino in the eighth and surrendering an infield single to Jose Martinez, Lotzkar was replaced by Wilkin De La Rosa.
"I wasn't wild, I was just missing my spots a little bit," Lotzkar said. "I don't typically walk that many guys, but I'm not too concerned about it. I lost my rhythm a couple times when I struggled throwing first-pitch strikes. Hitters are more patient and the strike zone is a little smaller at Double-A, but I'm pretty positive it will sort itself out."
It marked just the second time Lotzkar pitched more than six innings in his six-year career. His career high was seven innings for Class A Dayton in a 6-5 loss to Bowling Green on June 30 last year.
The outing was his second Double-A appearance. In his Blue Wahoos debut Tuesday, Lotzkar surrendered three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and three walks over six innings.
In five starts in the California League before his promotion to Pensacola, the 6-foot-4 farmhand was 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA. He had recorded 27 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings while walking 10 batters. Across two levels this year, he is 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA.
Lotzkar hopes this is a sign of positive things to come. Right now though, his main goal is to make it through the entire year.
In his second professional season in 2008, Lotzkar fractured his elbow in the third inning of the Class A Dayton Dragons' 1-0 win over the Quad Cities Rapids. Lotzkar needed Tommy John surgery, and as a result, missed all of the 2009 campaign and the first three months of '10.
"I broke my elbow. The medical term for it was olecranon, it was the same bone that Joel Zumaya broke," Lotzkar added. "I was a short-armer and I had bad mechanics. I didn't have much of a grasp about how my body was working.
"I threw with a broken elbow, and when I was compensating for that, I tore my UCL so I needed two surgeries and I had to rehab for two years. It seems to be quite a lot better now. I've changed the way I throw and I'm using my body more efficiently now."
In his first five years of pro ball, Lotzkar appeared in just 45 total games. He is relying on a change of mechanics to revitalize his career, and even though he went 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 14 Midwest League starts last year, he insists he is continuing to make strides.
"The thing that was causing a lot of the stress on my elbow was that my elbow was above my shoulder when I pitched," he added.
"It was hyperabduction. I've got a lot longer with my arm now and instead of having my elbow above [my shoulder], now it's parallel. I've also worked on the deceleration motion of my mechanics. Now my No. 1 goal is staying healthy."
On Sunday, second baseman Brodie Green was 2-for-5 with two RBIs, Hill was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and right fielder P.J. Phillips was 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Birmingham starter Nestor Molina (3-2) took the loss. He allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks while fanning seven batters over 6 2/3 innings.