Consider this Matt Cooper's formal introduction.
The right-handed White Sox prospect allowed two hits and struck out 11 over eight innings Thursday in Class A Advanced Winston-Salem's 8-0 win over Carolina at BB&T Ballpark. He didn't issue any walks and was one strikeout off the career high he set in his previous start.
The 11 whiffs pushed Cooper's strikeout total to a Minor League-best 86 across 11 starts this season. The pitcher with the second-most K's this season, top Pirates prospect Tyler Glasnow, has notched 72 in the same amount of starts. But Cooper (3-4) isn't letting the feat get to his head.
"To be honest, I just think it's kind of funny because nobody's probably ever even heard of me before," he said. "So I'm just enjoying it and am thankful for the opportunity every time I get the ball."
The University of Hawaii product retired the first nine hitters he saw before yielding an infield single to Ryan Gebhardt to lead off the fourth. Both hits that Cooper gave up Thursday were singles, and both were by Gebhardt.
"When all four of my pitches are going, my chances of having a good game increase," he said. "But to be honest, if I have my curveball going for strikes, I can kind of work off my fastball and get away with high fastballs I tend to leave up. If I don't, my fastball won't be as effective."
After surrendering a two-out single to Gebhardt in the sixth, the 24-year-old sat down the last seven hitters he saw. He set his career-high dozen strikeouts in his previous outing against Potomac on May 27 and hasn't allowed a walk in his past two appearances spanning 16 innings.
On Thursday, Cooper also induced seven ground-ball outs and found himself able to make his pitch in a three-ball count.
"My mentality always stays the same," he said. "I know if I have a nice, low fastball on a 3-1 count, I'll have a good chance of getting people out."
The 2014 16th-round pick said he did take a moment to marvel at his second straight gaudy strikeout total.
"I'm not going to lie to you, the strikeouts are a lot of fun," he added. "That's obviously what I'm trying to do. I mean ground balls are nice, but the strikeouts are the most fun."
The Washington native averages 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and sports a 1.00 WHIP through 67 innings for the Dash this season. And although he says he's been able to throw all four of his pitches for strikes on a consistent basis, the key has been more mental than anything else.
"I don't really think about much out there," Cooper said. "When I start thinking, things start going wrong for me. So I just try to have fun out there and not think at all. Once I get in my head, it's hard to come out."
Righty Euclides Leyer allowed one hit in the ninth to finish off the shutout.
Hunter Jones went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Mason Robbins added a triple and scored two runs for the Dash.
Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com.