Cameron Rupp caught Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in spring training.
"His command was a little iffy — he had trouble throwing strikes — and the velocity wasn't there," the IronPigs catcher said of Gonzalez, a Cuban defector who received a $12-million, four-year major league contract from the Phillies last August after defecting from Cuba earlier in 2013.
"He was a bit more raw than what I had anticipated — not as polished, maybe I should say, you might expect of an older kid," IronPigs manager Dave Brundage said. "I had never seen him, never seen video on him. But you obviously knew that someone in there liked his arm."
Fast forward about five months, boith Rupp and Brundage are seeing a much different pitcher.
"It comes out a lot different than it did in the spring," Rupp said after Gonzalez looked sharp again in his second outing with Lehigh Valley during a 7-1 win over Durham Monday night before 9,564 fans at Coca-Cola Park.
Greg Smith allowed one run over seven innings to pick up his first victory in a month and Maikel Franco had two hits and knocked in two runs for the IronPigs (53-63), who close out the six-game home stand with a 11:35 a.m. start today against the Bulls.
When he signed last August, some projected Gonzelez as a member of the Phillies rotation coming out fo camp. But slowed by a sore shoulder and mechanical issues, Gonzalez was left behind in Clearwater when the season opened and didn't throw his first official minor league pitch until May 15 with the Single-A Threshers and has been working his way up the ladder since.
Monday's scoreless inning, his second since joining the team on Friday, lowered his overall ERA this season to 3.69 in 31 2/3 innings over the three levels, with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks.
In 17 1/3 innings between Reading and the IronPigs, Gonzalez has a 2.60 ERA (five earned runs), with 26 strikeouts and seven walks.
"It's a complete 180-degree change," IronPigs pitching coach Ray Burris said. "There were things in his mechanics that had to be ironed out, and he's a much different pitcher."
Although Burris said he believes the radar gun is overrated, Gonzalez hit 96 mph on several of his 12 pitches.
"I think he was better tonight [than his Saturday IronPigs debut]," Brundage said. "He was sharper, he had better command of his fastball, more velocity, more aggressive … you could see he had more life tonight."
"He was throwing harder and his ball was in the zone more than it was the other night," said Rupp, who also caught Gonzalez at Clearwater while the catcher was rehabbing his oblique strain. "He missed a lot of barrels and that's what he gets paid to do."
Gonzalez gave up a two-out double.
"He established his fastball and then used his secondary pitches well after the hit," Burris said.
Brundage said the next step in Gonzalez's development is to see him get "stretched out" a little bit with two-inning outings and back-to-back outings
Luis Garcia closed out with a perfect ninth as the three pitchers combined to throw just 107 pitches without a walk.
Faced with what he called a "thin" bullpen before the game, Brundage hoped for an extended outing from Smith, and the veteran left-hander, seeking his first victory since July 1 at Scranton, complied.
Smith (8-8) allowed one run, a seventh-inning home run by Wilson Betemit. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter while throwing 57 of his 86 pitches for strikes.
It was Smith's first start at Coca-Cola Park since June 26, when he blanked Rochester on two hits over six innings.
His teammates gave him plenty of offensive support, with a three-run third and a four-run fourth.