Packy Naughton’s season as a starting pitcher for the Dayton Dragons had become a struggle of mechanics. Never a mental one.
“Mental strength is a choice,” said the pitcher from Boston. “You can choose to go out there and be mentally weak and blame others and not work hard. Or you can roll up your sleeves and say I need to change something.”
A change to his delivery has been good for Naughton in his last two starts. He’s pitched 13 straight scoreless innings (14 overall), allowed four hits, one walk and struck out eight. Seven of those innings came Wednesday in a 3-2 victory over Lake County.
Naughton adjusted his positioning on the rubber, reduced his movement and is now able to attack the strike zone better and throw more breaking pitches for strikes. He has his timing back and his arm isn’t lagging behind his body. Before, Naughton’s delivery made him much easier to hit.
“Mostly the ball flattens out, I don’t have angle to it, there’s no deception in my delivery, everyone’s able to see the ball early, the changeup flattens out, I leave pitches up,” he said. “The adjustment lets me be able to keep the ball down.”
Naughton has also been efficient. In his previous start at South Bend, he threw 61 pitches in six innings. On Wednesday, he threw 77 in seven innings.
“You can never doubt yourself — that’s your worst enemy,” Naughton said. “Your biggest tool as a pitcher should be your aggressiveness and your conviction in each pitch you throw.”
The Dragons (7-7, 38-44) have won seven of 10 games since starting the second half 0-4.
“The guys are concentrating more on the field,” manager Luis Bolivar said. “I like what I see and hope the guys keep it going the rest of the year.”
The team batting average and runs per game is up slightly this half, the team ERA is down by almost two runs and the defense has been stellar. The Dragons have committed seven errors in the second half and only 10 in their past 25 games.
Naughton was appreciative of some good plays behind him.
“Spectacular,” he said.
Dragons tales: First baseman Montrell Marshall has been placed on the restricted list for an undisclosed reason. Marshall will not count against the Dragons’ active roster while he is on the list. Marshall was in Tuesday’s original starting lineup but did not play. Marshall was the MVP of the Midwest League all-star game. He was batting .181 with three homers and 22 RBIs.
• Lorenzo Cedrola started in center field for the Dragons in his first game since the Reds acquired him from Boston in exchange for international amateur signing bonus pool allocation. No money changed hands, but the Red Sox get an additional $1.5 million for signing international prospects.
Cedrola, 20, hit .318 with 17 doubles and 22 RBIs in 211 at-bats for Class A Greenville this season.
The Reds traded more of their international allocation Wednesday to the Dodgers along with reliever Dylan Floro. One of the minor-league pitchers the Reds got was Aneurys Zabala, who has been a reliever in the Midwest League with Great Lakes. Zabala, 21, hit a 100 mph will pitching in Dayton this season. He has a 4.86 ERA in 24 appearances, walking 25 and striking out 30.