Marlins' Needy deals in Fall League action

Marlins' Needy deals in Fall League action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After struggling in his last outing, James Needy bounced back with his best start of the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday.

The Marlins prospect cruised through four scoreless innings as Salt River topped Glendale, 6-0, at Salt River Fields.

"I got behind a couple hitters and I was able to bail myself out with some quality two-seam fastball and changeups," Needy said. "I felt pretty good, I felt a lot better than I have since I got here. I just executed some pitches behind in the count, but mostly I stayed ahead. That's the key, staying ahead with the good hitters here."

Box score

The 26-year-old has a 6.23 ERA through four appearances (two starts), but that number is a bit misleading as it was largely inflated on Friday, when he allowed five earned runs in two innings against Peoria.

Needy said he felt he was letting the Peoria hitters dictate the gameplan and that he wasn't aggressive enough in the outing. That changed Wednesday as he carved his way through the Glendale lineup.

The right-hander threw 33 of his 48 pitches for strikes, walked one, struck out one and gave up just two hits as he worked in the low 90s with a fastball that also topped out at 95 mph, according to Statcast™.

"I felt like that was the key for me today, just being able to stay focused on every pitch," Needy said. " … I felt aggressive with the fastball and pitching off the fastball."

After totaling just 46 1/3 innings over the past two seasons, Needy came to the AFL looking to make up for lost time.

Needy missed the entire 2016 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery and then initially couldn't get a job to start 2017.

After beginning the season in the independent leagues, Needy signed with the Marlins in June, then missed time after he was placed on the disabled list with a sprained finger on his right hand.

When he was healthy, Needy posted a 2.33 ERA in nine games with Class A Advanced Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville.

"It couldn't have gone much better when I was on the field," Needy said of his season. "That finger thing was disappointing because it cost me about three, four weeks in-season, but it was precautionary because next year is the goal [to make the Majors] anyways."

Andrew Sopko (Dodgers) also threw well, posting four shutout innings of his own in what was a pitcher's duel early. The Rafters played small ball to scratch across a run via a sacrifice fly from Rodrigo Vigil (Marlins) in the fifth, then broke the game open in the the sixth.

Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles' No. 3) had gotten off to a slow start in the AFL, but has begun to heat up recently. Mountcastle sparked a rally with a two-run homer on Tuesday and stayed hot with a two-run double off the left-field wall on Wednesday.

Mountcastle's double highlighted a three-run sixth, and then the Rafters put the game away with two runs in the seventh.

William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.