Whether pitching out of the bullpen or as a starter, Xavier Altamirano likes to keep a consistent approach in his preparation. It's a mind-set that has proven successful for the Athletics right-hander. Altamirano (7-2) surrendered two hits and a walk over a season-high seven innings as Class A Beloit blanked Kane County, 8-0,
Whether pitching out of the bullpen or as a starter, Xavier Altamirano likes to keep a consistent approach in his preparation. It's a mind-set that has proven successful for the Athletics right-hander.
Altamirano (7-2) surrendered two hits and a walk over a season-high seven innings as Class A Beloit blanked Kane County, 8-0, on Thursday at Northwestern Medicine Field. The 23-year-old right-hander has won his last three starts, surrendering four runs in 19 innings.
"It was a great day for me," Altamirano said. "Overall, felt great with all of my pitches. Early on, I kind of struggled with my off-speed, but I found it. For the entire game, it was my fastball actually. The ability to pound down and away and inside on some of the hitters. That helps me to get ahead sometimes.
"I wasn't really throwing that much of my off-speed early in the game, because I wasn't getting the feel I needed. But as the game got late, I started finding the release point."
In 24 games, including seven starts, Altamirano (7-2) sports the Midwest League's seventh-best ERA (2.81) and sixth-best WHIP (1.04). He's started in six of his last seven appearances, lasting at least six innings in each game during his winning streak.
The numbers the 2015 27th-round pick has put up as a durable swingman stems from the way Altamirano studies his opponent before taking the mound.
"I make sure to stay focused," the Douglas, Arizona native said. "I try to pay attention as a reliever to what the starters were doing and pick up weaknesses of the hitters. I would pick up if they were aggressive on the first pitch or were they struggling with the outside fastball or was it a good idea to come in on their hands. That's what I did as a reliever.
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"Now as a starter, the day before I pitch, if I'm going to face the same team the next day, instead of doing it during the game as a reliever, now I do it the game before."
Having faced the Cougars as a reliever three times in April, he expected to face a team that was going to be aggressive every at-bat. Adam Walton led off the first inning with an infield single, but Altamirano got Anfernee Grier to ground into a double play and Marcus Wilson to fly out to right.
"That first hit was like a broken bat, I was like, 'Oh, this is going to be an easy out here,' but as I turned around I saw our third baseman [Trace Loehr] was playing pretty far back and I was thinking, 'This is going to turn into a hit,'" the 6-foot-3, 195-pound hurler said. "I shook it off. I knew it was a good pitch that I got the hitter with, so I let it go. I tried to focus on getting the ground-ball double play and get back into it. It happened to work out that way. It got the momentum going right away."
After the Oral Roberts product set down 13 straight batters, Manny Jefferson drew a two-out walk in the fourth. But he was stranded when Paxton De La Garza lined out to center. B.J. López lined a single to Loehr to lead off the sixth, but Altamirano set down the next three -- including whiffs of Walton and Grier -- to end the inning.
In the seventh, Altamirano fanned Wilson and Ramon Hernandez before getting Seth Spivey to ground out to first. It marked the first time he completed seven frames since last Aug. 2 with Class A Short Season Vermont.
"It felt great. I knew I had one more inning, so I literally went with everything that I had," he said. "I just wanted to leave it all on the field that inning and leave on a good note. Again, thankfully, it worked out. It feels good to be able to go late and show that I can go longer. I can prove that I can keep my pitch count low and pitch to contact."
Altamirano threw 54 of a season-high 91 pitches for strikes.
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Joseph Camacho and John Gorman each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for Beloit.
Loehr, Miguel Mercedes and JaVon Shelby drove in two runs apiece for the Snappers.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.