Aces' Spruill spins together a shutout

D-backs prospect turns to curveball, pitches a seven-hitter

By Jake Seiner / Special to | June 9, 2013 6:25 PM ET

After struggling through his first six Triple-A starts, Zeke Spruill decided the pitches in his repertoire weren't enough. He did a little scavenging and settled on an old friend -- a curveball he'd retired a few years back.

Reviving his once-abandoned breaking ball has done the trick for Spruill, who tossed a seven-hitter Sunday as Reno blanked Colorado Springs, 4-0.

Throwing a career-high 123 pitches, he struck out two batters and walked one.

"It's something I had before and I got away from throwing it the last couple years," the D-backs No. 8 prospect said. "I had a talk with our pitching coach, Mike Parrott, and he thought I needed another breaking ball to have a little more depth."

Spruill's sinker, slider and changeup fueled his success as he repeated the Southern League to begin the season. The former Braves prospect moved to the D-backs system in January as part of the Justin Upton trade and shined for Mobile in his organizational debut, posting a 1.42 ERA in five starts.

Arizona bumped him up to Reno early last month and, after allowing an unearned run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in his debut, the 23-year-old right-hander struggled. He finished May with a 6.06 ERA and worked seven innings in just one of his six starts.

After surrendering seven earned runs on 12 hits over six innings on May 29 against Las Vegas, Spruill (2-3) had his chat with Parrott and decided to revive the curveball.

"It's something slower," Spruill said. "My slider is kind of hard and, obviously with the fastball, there's not much of a speed difference between the two. We were talking and decided to throw the curveball again. The last two starts, it's been working great.

"There is a difference [in speed], but it's more in the breaks. The curve is a little more straight down and the slider is a little more side to side."

The new pitch has done the trick. Spruill has a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings in his last two starts and on Sunday picked up his first win since his Triple-A debut.

The complete-game shutout was the second of his career and first since May 16, 2011 in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. Although he threw 123 pitches, he said he felt strong in the ninth, when he escaped a first-and-third jam by getting Ben Paulsen to ground out.

"I would've been able to go as long as they would've let me," Spruill said. "I wasn't tiring at all. My velocity was still good and my command was still there. As far as they would've let me go, I would've gone."

D-backs No. 5 prospect Chris Owings backed Spruill with three hits, including his fifth homer. The 21-year-old shortstop had a 23-game hitting streak snapped Thursday, but after an 0-for-8 strech is 5-for-9 in his last two games.

Matt Davidson, Arizona's third-ranked prospect, added his eighth homer as part of a 3-for-4 day.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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