METAIRIE, La. – If Cubs pitching prospect Sean Gallagher looks different to you this year, he should…
"He pitched about as well as I've seen him pitch over the last three years," Iowa skipper Pat Listach, who has been Gallagher's manager for parts of the past three seasons, said. "He had all of his pitches working, throwing every pitch for strikes."
Gallagher (1-1) pitched 6 2/3 innings total, allowing three runs and seven hits. He struck out five batters and did not allow a walk for the first time this season.
Gallagher left after throwing 88 pitches, 57 for strikes. Through the game's first six innings, when he was at his best, Gallagher threw 60 pitches, 39 strikes. He retired 12 straight batters at one point in the game.
Even with four hits allowed in Gallagher's last inning, Listach noted that only one – a double down the right field line by New Orleans' Caleb Stewart – was hit overly hard.
"The only ball I thought was hit hard was the double down the right field line that barely stayed fair," Listach said. "Other than that, he made his pitches, [gave up a] broken-bat hit ... He pitched well and deserved better than what he got tonight."
Of Gallagher's first four hits allowed, all were lead-off singles. He stayed out of jams by locating his fastball and using his curveball to keep hitters off-balance.
One scout in attendance remarked that Gallagher's curveball was "unfair."
An example of this was in the second inning when Gallagher struck out hot-hitting Zephyrs outfielder Chris Aguila on a knee-buckler for the second out. That same inning, he threw a changeup that forced veteran third baseman Fernando Tatis to hit a weak grounder to third base and got Zephyrs outfielder Jesus Feliciano to swing late on a fastball, resulting in an easy groundout to the second baseman.
Gallagher has worked on the development of a slider since last season, but he did not throw many sliders in Thursday's game.
"I think that's what hurt me a little probably," he said. "I was throwing it in warm-up's and tried to bring it back in the latter part of the game. I wasn't able to get around on it and sort of left a couple hanging. That double down the line was a hanging slider."
Gallagher said he was pleased with his performance overall.
"I was a lot happier with this outing than my last," Gallagher said. "My last outing, I didn't have a lot of fastball location. Today, I had a lot better command of it."
The 6 2/3 innings Gallagher pitched was his longest start of the season. Since the start of the Arizona Fall League last year, Gallagher has dropped 35 pounds (down from 250 to 215). He said the weight loss has helped him pitch "easier" and with less effort.
"I don't need as much exertion anymore just to try and get over my front half," he said. "My mechanics are a little easier to stay with instead of falling out of so easily."