Ziomek sharp again for Whitecaps

Tigers' No. 5 prospect pitches six one-hit innings, strikes out eight

Kevin Ziomek is tied for the Midwest League lead with 135 strikeouts in 111 innings. (Emily Jones/MiLB.com)

By Robert Emrich / MiLB.com | August 17, 2014 12:19 AM ET

For Kevin Ziomek, Saturday was just another night at the office.

The Tigers' fifth-ranked prospect allowed one hit -- a solo homer -- over six innings as Class A West Michigan defeated Great Lakes, 7-2.

Ziomek (10-6) walked three batters and kept the Loons out of the hit column until Josmar Cordero led off the fifth inning with his 11th homer of the season. He recorded eight strikeouts in winning his third straight decision.

"I think the biggest thing today was my breaking ball was good," Ziomek said. "I was having trouble at times, but I was able to make pitches with my slider. That was a big pitch for me. Just being able to locate the fastball to both sides of the plate was huge."

The 22-year-old left-hander has been one of best pitchers in the Midwest League, leading the circuit with a 2.32 ERA. He shares the lead with 135 strikeouts and is tied for second with 10 victories, having gone 7-1 since the end of May.

"I'm feeling good," Ziomek said. "I didn't really start out as strongly as I had hoped. We've put in a lot of work in bullpen sessions. Me and coach [Mike] Henneman have been working hard on fastball command and honing that pitch. The off-speed stuff comes in right after that. Just working on my craft and learning how to pitch has been the biggest thing."

The Vanderbilt University product also said control was his biggest problem early in the season.

"Mainly my command," he said. "I've never been a guy who's had a ton of walks. I think I had high walk numbers early on. That's something we've been working on, getting ahead of hitters, throwing that first-pitch strike and just trying to work ahead at all times. It's been really paying off the last six or seven weeks."

A second-round pick last year, Ziomek has allowed five earned runs in his last five starts. During that stretch, he's recorded 47 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings and has not fanned fewer than seven batters in any of those outings.

"I'm just feeling more confident out there," he said. "I've probably been getting the majority of my strikeouts with my slider, but obviously, being able to throw that four-pitch mix that I've been working on has been the biggest thing for me. Early on, I was primarily a fastball-slider guy, but lately, the curveball-changeup has been really effective for me."

That four-pitch mix represents the ability to progress to upper levels for Ziomek.

"They're huge," he said. "Being able to turn over a lineup at the higher levels, you got to have a four-pitch mix, you can't just pitch with two pitches."

Montreal Robertson came on in the seventh and gave up a run on two hits with five strikeouts to notch his eighth save.

Pat Leyland homered, doubled and drove in three runs for the Whitecaps, while Javier Betancourt chipped in two RBIs.

Joey Curletta reached base three times and drove in a run for the Loons.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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