It took more than four years, but Jose Mesa says he has finally found the secret to becoming a successful pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league system.
"It's simple," Mesa said. "I'm having my best year because I'm finally concentrating."
With Mesa in charge of his thoughts and his 92-m.p.h. fastball, the Ventura County Gulls beat the Bakersfield Dodgers, 8-0, before about 100 Tuesday at Ventura College.
Mesa (7-2) pitched six innings, scattered five hits and struck out seven. He combined with Todd Provence for the Gulls' first shutout of the year.
Mesa, 20, was signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic when he was 15.
Gulls Manager Glenn Ezell said it didn't take him long to recognize a pattern in Mesa's success this season.
"If he can get through the first inning, he's going to do a good job for you," Ezell said. "When he throws all of his pitches effectively--especially his change-up--he's going to win."
Gulls first baseman Domingo Martinez led the offense with three hits, including a third-inning solo home run--his sixth--that proved to be the game-winning RBI. Martinez, who drove in two runs, also had a triple and a single.
"I had been having problems with my hitting because I was opening up too soon," Martinez said. "Today I felt good. I was staying back and letting the pitches come to me."
The Gulls scored twice in the fifth and twice more in the sixth before chasing Bakersfield starter Rene Garcia (2-4).
Garcia, 18, attended Hoover High in Glendale before the Dodgers signed him last year based on his performances in the Mexican Leagues.
The Gulls added three runs against reliever Andy Naworski to complete a two-game sweep of the last place Dodgers.
The Gulls improved their record to 28-17 in the California League's Southern Division, but still trail division leader Palm Springs by 4 1/2 games.
"We're 11 games over .500 and we can't gain any ground," Ezell said.
The same is true for Bakersfield (11-34), which is 21 1/2 games out of first-place.
"We're just getting our tails whipped," Bakersfield Mangaer Duckey LeJohn said. "We've got a lot of young guys doing the best that they can, but we're hoping we can improve in the second half of the season with the help we'll get from the draft."
The Gulls begin a nine-game road trip tonight in Visalia. Todd Stottlemeyer (7-2) will start for the Gulls. The Gulls will also travel to Salinas and San Jose. . . . Gulls' pitcher Todd Provence, who pitched three innings of scoreless relief Tuesday, was making his first appearance since injuring his shoulder against Bakersfield April 18.