Christian Friedrich picked the perfect time to put some pitching lessons he learned into practice and against a formidable opponent as well.
Friedrich (4-3) gave up a run on two hits and struck out five over seven innings and outpitched former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb as Tulsa downed Frisco, 7-2, on Monday.
MLB.com’s preseason No. 50 prospect had his best outing of the season hot off his worst start. He allowed 10 runs — two earned — on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings against Midland on May 25.
“I pretty much had all my pitches working and I was getting ahead in counts,” said Friedrich, who throws a fastball, a curveball slider and a change-up. “On top of that, I threw three different fastballs, anywhere from 83 mph to 92 mph.”
Friedrich, who induced 11 ground-ball outs, said he picked up tips on varying the speeds on his fastball from Aaron Cook, who rehabbed with Tulsa earlier in May.
On this night, the Eastern Kentucky product also learned from watching Webb, who is trying to come back from rotator cuff surgery.
“Webb’s stuff is really good,” Friedrich said. “It’s really neat to watch him throw and to go against him is a great experience. I guess it’s solidified my deal of eating up the strike zone and not being so perfect.”
“A guy gets on base with a few bad pitches he doesn’t even have to swing the bat. When you do it in a game and have success, it doesn’t matter if you’re throwing it at 90 or 84.”
The only blemishes Monday against Friedrich came in the fourth inning, when he allowed a single to Leonys Martin with one out. Michael Bianucci followed with an RBI double and Friedrich walked Jose Ruiz, putting the Drillers’ lead in jeopardy.
After balking the runners to second and third, the Rockies’ first-rounder in 2008 got Jonathan Greene to hit a ground ball to third base. The 6-foot-4 left-hander ended the inning by whiffing Davis Stoneburner, and he did not allow another runner to reach base after that.
The 23-year-old Illinois native is off to a rocky start in 2011, with a 4.64 ERA in 10 starts for the Drillers. Texas League batters are hitting .263 against Friedrich, and he’s struck out 39 batters in 52 1/3 innings. He returned to Tulsa after going 3-5 with a 5.05 ERA there last season.
“The best outings I’ve had this year, I haven’t had to throw the hardest,” he said. “The easier I throw pitches around the plate instead of trying to make the perfect pitch the better. I just have to mix speeds and eat up the zone.”
Tim Wheeler had three hits and scored twice, while James Cesario was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, raising his average to .329. Ben Paulsen doubled and plated two for the Drillers.
Webb took the loss in his first start since April 6, 2009, when he gave up six runs over four innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks.