After Parker Bridwell carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning last week for High-A Frederick, manager Luis Pujols told him that if he learned from that start, he could put his early season struggles behind him.
Bridwell did just that Tuesday, riding his rediscovered changeup and swing-and-miss breaking ball to six innings in which he struck out eight batters and gave up three runs and six hits to a potent Myrtle Beach lineup.
“Last year, [my changeup] was one of my best pitches, and it showed back up a couple outings ago,” Bridwell said. “When you have another pitch that you can throw for a strike whenever you want, it helps that much more. All my pitches, I have a great feel for them right now, and I’m just playing my game.”
Bridwell, a 6-foot-4 right-hander drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB draft out of Hereford (Texas) High School, dominated for stretches in Tuesday’s start against the Pelicans.
Myrtle Beach took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Chris Garia, who tripled to lead off the game, scored on a two-out double to center field that looked like it could have been caught. Still, Bridwell struck out the side.
Bridwell cruised until the fifth, when a pair of leadoff doubles led to the Pelicans' second run. An inning later, he loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a base hit, then coaxed an RBI groundout from catcher Jorge Alfaro. He picked up his eighth strikeout on his 96th and final pitch.
“I left him in there when he got in a little trouble at the end, just to see how he got out, and he executed well,” Pujols said.
Despite the recent success, Bridwell is 1-6 with a 5.49 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning but a 1.48 WHIP.
Bridwell’s struggles earlier in the season, and in two years with Delmarva before it, stemmed from trouble repeating his delivery. But when he locates his pitches, he shows the potential for three pitches that would grade out as major league average or better.
His fastball, which sits 91-93 mph, has intriguing downhill plane that is hard for some taller pitchers to generate. His high-70s changeup and low-80s breaking ball were both swing-and-miss offerings at times Tuesday.
All three were also working in the 8 1/3 inning no-hit bid last Wednesday. Bridwell, who got extra rest after the long outing, said he felt it would be a special night early.
“It’s just one of those things where you go in the bullpen and you feel great going into the game, and you can throw the ball wherever you want, whatever pitch,” Bridwell said. “I took out of it how I felt, delivery-wise, how that felt, just kind of repeating that routine and stuff that I did before that game. It was special. It was fun.”
Bridwell said he carried the same stretching and bullpen routine into Tuesday’s start, and he felt similar to the no-hit bid.
“It was just kind of a focus,” Bridwell said. “Once you figure out what focus it takes to get guys out and stay in the game and keep your team in the game, it’s on you. Your stuff will be there if the focus is there.”
Pujols said Bridwell was able to pitch ahead in the count in both, thanks in part to his ability to locate all three pitches in the zone. Having all three pitches working will be key going forward through the eight-team Carolina League, the pitcher said.
“The more you face them, the more they’re going to know your style of pitching, how you’re going to pitch them, as opposed to seeing what they’re doing and seeing how you can pitch them different,” Bridwell said. “But the more pitches you have working for you on a night, it’s going to be a lot easier. It’s just a matter of feeling it, focusing and throwing it over the plate.”