T.J. House came to Scottsdale with a goal of turning his changeup into an effective secondary pitch, and on Wednesday, the scene was set to test out the off-speed offering.
"I think it's something that you need to have, to be able to throw some big ones over the plate and keep them guessing," said House, an Indians prospect. "It keeps them off your fastball. I'm still going to stick with my slider as my go-to pitch, but it's an important pitch that I need to develop."
House relied on the change and pitched four scoreless innings while fellow Indians prospect Ronny Rodriguez knocked home a pair of runs as Scottsdale beat Phoenix, 6-2, on Wednesday in the Arizona Fall League.
House (2-0) held the Desert Dogs to just one hit in his fourth start. He walked one, struck out four and threw 38 of his 55 pitches for strikes to win his second straight outing.
"I felt good today," House said. "I had good fastball command, and my changeup was one of my best pitches. Usually I rely more on my slider, but it was working well today, I threw it a lot more, especially the second go-around."
A lefty drafted by Cleveland in the 16th round in 2008, House has been among the Fall League's best starters this year -- in 17 innings, the 23-year-old has allowed three earned runs and struck out 18 batters. He believes he's adjusted pretty seamlessly to the crop of elite talent gathered in the circuit.
"I think I have," he said. "The key here with these guys is making sure you get ahead and stay in the strike zone. You don't want to fall behind and you don't want to nibble. I think I'm succeeding there. And I have a great catcher (Yankees prospect Austin Romine) behind the plate, they see things I don't and let me know. So it's been a great time to meet all these guys from different organizations."
House struck out two in the first inning to strand his only baserunners after Milwaukee's Khris Davis walked and Hunter Morris, the Brewers' No. 7 prospect, lined a two-out single to center. He pitched around a one-out error in the second before retiring the final eight batters he faced in a pair of 1-2-3 innings.
"I knew I'd gotten the first two guys out, but the fastball was up and in [to Morris], he singled and I thought, 'I need to calm down, throw strikes and let the guys do the work,'" House said. "And it's good for our guys to handle those balls behind me."
House said he didn't let the error -- a botched grounder by third baseman Kaleb Cowart (Angels) -- get to his head.
"I felt like things were working really well, I stayed with my fastball, in and out, and I knew the guys would make up for it later," said House, who went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 starts between Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Akron in 2012. "It happens, they pick you back up right away."
Scottsdale did just that when it gave its starter some support in the fourth. Romine scored on a fielder's choice, Chris Dominguez came home on a wild pitch and Rodriguez, Cleveland's No. 5 prospect, ripped a two-run triple to chase Nick Bucci (Brewers).
Dominguez homered an inning later for a 5-0 lead.
Bucci (2-1) took the loss for Phoenix, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six. Yordy Cabrera (Marlins) and Kevin Kiermaier (Rays) had RBIs for the Dogs.
For House, the win was another confidence builder, especially when it comes to his second and third pitches.
"I think mainly I've wanted to work on my changeup and first-pitch curveballs, those are two important keys for me to get later into games," he said. "Using [the changeup] in effective pitch counts and continuing throwing the curve, those are the main keys. Just staying in the strike zone -- the more you throw strikes, the deeper you'll go, and that's a big part of being successful."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com.