WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As spring training progresses, it’s only natural that players will feel more and more comfortable. Hunter Brown is making it very obvious.
The 24-year-old right-hander, who appears to be stuck somewhere in the back of the starting rotation at least to start the season, put together another solid start, allowing one run and three hits while striking out four and not walking in four innings of an 11-7 loss to the Nationals on Friday. More importantly, Brown threw 44 of his 66 pitches for hits.
Brown, who made his league debut last September, struggled with his lead early on by throwing just 38 of his 73 pitching per strike and walking five of the 15 batters he faced in his first two outings. He was much better next time, pitching three perfect innings and 24 of his 36 pitches for strikes.
“I’m just trying to stack the good ones and put some distance from the not-so-good results with a bunch of good results,” Brown said of his second straight outing. “I like where I am. I’m trying to keep focusing on the process and go from there.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker often talks about his players’ pursuit of mental toughness and likes what he’s seen from Brown about it.
“He threw the ball well when he went behind,” Baker said. “In his first couple outings, he would fall behind and sort of lose him, but he regrouped. He pitched well.”
Brown said the key to him on this particular outing was the ability to throw his fastball for hits that allowed him to open up more with his curveball and slider. But, in general, he believes his effectiveness only comes from getting into more innings.
“Every game, you kind of come back to feel, so the first things you used in the past to keep you in the zone or keep you at your pace, start coming back to you as you get more and more out,” he said Brown. “Just as spring rolls on, the light bulb goes on. ‘Oh yeah, I was doing this last year when I wasn’t doing quite what I wanted to do,’ so that sort of thing comes back as the season rolls on.”