Kyle Lloyd ushered in the San Antonio Missions' 2017 season on a high note.
Making his first Opening Day start as a professional, the 6-foot-4 right-hander from Sacramento, CA allowed one hit and struck out four with two walks through 5 2/3 innings of a 4-0 victory over Northwest Arkansas.
Lloyd was right on target as 56 of his 86 pitches found the strike zone. A few days later, he was in the zone again, tossing a three-hitter with five strikeouts in a 5-1 win over Arkansas.
If everything goes as planned, that's just a preview of things to come.
"I want to build off last year," Lloyd said. "I got into a good routine and built on that as the season went on. I felt better each game. I learned a lot. We had pitcher-catcher meetings where we went over each hitter and their strengths. I think it's going to prepare me this year, because I know the hitters better."
Lloyd's dependability has been present ever since he was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 29th round of the 2013 Major League Draft following a standout college career at Evansville.
He developed much of that reputation by displaying versatility as he worked as both a starter and reliever during his first three seasons, including his Double-A debut with the Missions a year ago.
Lloyd broke into the rotation after working his first 10 games out of the pen. After becoming a starter, he got into the swing of things, finishing with a 7-7 record and 3.31 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 38 walks.
"(Becoming a starter) wasn't a big surprise for me last year, because I had done it before," Lloyd said. "The way it turned out I grew from it. The mentality is different for a reliever and starter, but I adjusted. I figured if that was where they needed me I could do it. I was excited about it."
Last year's effort convinced the Padres to make him a starter this season. Following his two impressive showings, it's apparent Lloyd is going to make the most of his opportunity.
After all, being a starter is where he feels most comfortable.
"I really enjoy starting, because I can get into a routine each day," Lloyd said. "I am a routine person, even outside of baseball. I know what I need to do each day to prepare for my start.
"You have to keep the same mentality. If you have a rough start, you have to move on or it will carry over into the next one. You can't get too excited about the good starts. You put everything out of your mind and go back to work."
Lloyd is also pitching with confidence, thanks largely to last year's success. It provided him added incentive going into this year. In addition, he has a better idea of how to handle Double-A hitters.
He discovered right from the start Double-A hitters are more refined in their craft, meaning mistakes could lead to serious trouble.
"This is where the rubber meets the road," Lloyd said. "When you get here, you see there's a lot of hitting prospects at this level. I know I have to stay positive and stay strong mentally. I want to go out, throw strikes and put up zeroes on the scoreboard. I want to keep the team off the field and help give us a chance to win."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.