Jordan Yamamoto knows what he used to be as a pitcher. He knows what he is currently. And he knows what he'll have to be to make an impact in the Major Leagues.Using Monday's outing as a blueprint would be a good place to start.The Marlins' No. 17 prospect didn't
Jordan Yamamoto knows what he used to be as a pitcher. He knows what he is currently. And he knows what he'll have to be to make an impact in the Major Leagues.
Using Monday's outing as a blueprint would be a good place to start.
The Marlins' No. 17 prospect didn't allow a hit over seven scoreless innings, striking out four and walking one, to lead Double-A Jacksonville to a 5-1 win over Montgomery at the Baseball Grounds. The seven frames matched the longest outing of his six seasons in the Minors, last achieved on June 26 last year with Class A Advanced Jupiter.
"I was talking to my pitching coach [Bruce Walton] today, and there are times when I've been trying to be a power pitcher, trying to blow it past guys," Yamamoto said. "That's not who I am. In my last couple starts, I've started to show who I am -- someone that can hit his spots, up, down, side to side. I used to be a big strikeout guy. I'm not that anymore. I need to pitch it in the zone and the let the hitters hit the ball where I want them to hit it. That's what happened today."
Gameday box score
Yamamoto forced weak contact early, getting the first three Biscuits he faced to bounce into groundball outs. He finished with 10 groundouts in total, along with six flyouts, four strikeouts and one caught-stealing.
"It came down the execution of all my pitches," he said. "I haven't been able to get my curveball over the plate lately or throw my slider for strikes. So my thinking today was, hey, just throw them. Don't overthink it. If my catcher [Santiago Chávez] throws down two or three fingers, I'm going to go with it. Trust my catcher. Trust my defense behind me. Good things happen."
Yamamoto found himself in a familiar position in the later innings. The 23-year-old right-hander tossed six no-hit frames last Aug. 30 with the Jumbo Shrimp, and was similarly cruising at home Monday. This time, he was allowed to pitch the seventh and got the first two outs on a Josh Lowe groundout to short and a Dalton Kelly strikeout when manager Kevin Randel trotted out to the mound for what initially looked like the hook. Instead, Randel just wanted to talk before going to the bullpen.
"He came out and said, 'Hey, you're at 104 pitches. Can you finish this off in 110?'" Yamamoto said. "So I told him I could, and he just left it at that."
A man of his word, the Jacksonville starter got Jesús Sánchez to line out to first on the third pitch of the at-bat. He finished with 107 pitches, 69 of which were strikes. Jacksonville's no-hit bid ended the following inning when Lucius Fox smacked a single to left off reliever Jeff Kinley with one out in the eighth.
The performance continued a strong month for Yamamoto. The Hawaii native finished April with a 5.04 ERA in five starts and walked eight batters over 10 innings in his final two outings of the month -- an uncharacteristic loss of the trademark control that made him one of the four prospects the Marlins acquired from the Brewers in the Christian Yelich deal and that earned him a spot on Miami's 40-man roster this offseason.
But he's refound his form in May, sporting a 1.80 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only five free passes over four outings (25 innings). His .134 average-against is second-lowest among Double-A hurlers in May while his 0.64 WHIP ranks fifth. Yamamoto now owns a 3.42 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 45 strikeouts and 19 walks in 50 innings overall -- numbers much more in line with his scouting report of a plus curveball, good changeup and average fastball that can he spot well.
"It wasn't so much watching other guys and trying to figure out what I should be doing," Yamamoto said. "It's just knowing my strengths. At the end of the day, I've gotta be me and play into what works best for me out there. [Walton] came up to me afterwards and said, 'Where had this Yamamoto been the first couple starts?' But this is more who I am."
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.