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Dodgers' De Leon dominant in season debut

Righty strikes out nine over five scoreless frames in first Triple-A start
May 3, 2016

Jose De Leon was so thrilled to be pitching in a competitive game Tuesday, not much could have brought him down.

"Obviously, I would have wanted the team to win, but I'm so happy that I'm back and feeling good," the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect said.

Los Angeles kept the 23-year-old righty in extended spring training to start the year after he suffered a minor right ankle sprain in March, but in his season and Triple-A debut, De Leon allowed two hits and a walk while striking out nine over five shutout innings. Despite the strong outing, Oklahoma City lost to visiting New Orleans, 2-0.

"I was pretty excited," he said. "I wasn't too worried about pitching in Triple-A for the first time. It was more about pitching for the first time this year. I was excited. The adrenaline was pumping, and that's all I was thinking about. I just tried to go out there and do what I do. I was so excited to be competing again."

It showed. De Leon struck out the side in order in the first inning. That wasn't exclusively a positive for the No. 21 prospect overall -- he threw 19 pitches in the frame.

"All of those guys went to a 3-2 count. I wasn't upset, but I knew I had to attack the hitters more," he said. "If I went 3-2 all game, I was going to be out early. It's not perfectionism, but I know I can always do better. I tried to attack the hitters a little more after that, and it worked."

After Matt Juengel singled up the middle for the Zephyrs with two outs in the second, De Leon moved him into scoring position with an errant pickoff attempt and then to third base on a wild pitch. The Puerto Rico-born Southern University product struck out Adrian Nieto to escape the jam. Then he shrugged off a leadoff walk to Elliot Soto in the third.

De Leon was pleased that he hadn't been frazzled by his mistakes, including a missed sacrifice-bunt attempt that resulted in a strikeout after Elian Herrera led off the Dodgers' third with a single.

"I always try to forget everything really quickly," he said. "Even with that at-bat when I wasn't able to get the bunt down, it got in my head a little bit. But I said, 'Hey, clear your mind. You have to be ready to go the next inning.' Sometimes during the game frustrating things happen, but thinking about it isn't going to help anything."

Isaac Galloway knocked a two-out double in the fourth, but that didn't get to De Leon either. He plowed through the next four he faced, ultimately throwing 53 of 88 pitches for strikes.

"My fastball command wasn't great, but I was able to work through and get the job done," he said. "I found my comfortable arm slot on the last two hitters of the game. Some of my pitches felt awkward early. I bounced a couple fastballs in a way that rarely happens. Then I found my arm slot on the last two hitters, so I'm pretty excited about taking that to the next game."

Austin Barnes, the Dodgers' No. 11 prospect, went 3-for-4.

Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart (1-0) picked up the win, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out three over six innings.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB.