MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Stratton fires five scoreless in dominant start

Giants prospect uses fastball, slider combo to mow down Fall League batters

Stratton fires five scoreless in dominant start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Stratton became the first Arizona Fall Leaguer to throw five scoreless innings in a start this season, shutting down the Salt River Rafters in a 4-1 Scottsdale Scorpions victory Thursday night.

Selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, the Giants' No. 26 prospect relied mostly on an 89-93 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph slider to shackle the Rafters. Stratton pounded the strike zone, finding it with 40 of his 60 pitches, while permitting just three hits and striking out six. The right-hander recorded three of his whiffs with fastballs, two with sliders and one with a changeup.

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"I only threw about two changeups and three curveballs tonight," Stratton said. "I mainly went with my fastball and slider and tried to move them around the zone a bit. [Giants organizationmate] Aramis [Garcia] called a great game tonight. I didn't have to shake him off very much."

When Stratton signed for $1.85 million out of Mississippi State, it was expected he would move quickly through the Minor Leagues. But he got hit in the head by a batting-practice line drive a month into his debut, and his stuff has leveled off in pro ball. After regularly reaching 96 mph with his fastball and showcasing a wipeout slider in college, he now has more of a solid heater and average baseball.

The 26-year-old Stratton has made adjustments, and this year he threw more strikes than ever in Triple-A, earning his first big league callup in May. He had to adjust from starting to relieving on the fly and recorded a 3.60 ERA in seven bullpen outings during a month with San Francisco.

"It was different but a good different," Stratton said. "In the past, I've seen big-name guys like David Price get their feet wet as a reliever before becoming a starter. It was good getting my feet wet as a reliever, and I have a new respect for the bullpen now. It was a good experience learning from those guys, and the Arizona Fall League is a good experience that will help me compete for a job in spring training."

Stratton's primary goal in the AFL is to add some more innings to the 135 2/3 he pitched during the regular season -- down from 148 in 2015 -- to better prepare him for a possible increased workload should he crack the Giants rotation next year. He experimented with a new slider grip against Salt River and was pleased with the initial results. Through two turns in the rotation, he has been Scottsdale's best starter, allowing just one run in nine innings while striking out nine and walking none.

Right fielder Hunter Cole (Giants' No. 21) and first baseman Mitch Walding (Phillies) fueled the Scorpions offense on Thursday, with each providing two hits, a run and an RBI. Cole is now batting .318/.400/.636, and his 1.036 OPS ranks fifth in the AFL.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.