Starting pitchers are creatures of habit. From their pregame preparation, to how they spend the off-days between starts, everything comes down to a very specific routine.
Alex Wells, the Orioles' No. 16 prospect, is no different and he credits his routine -- a standard recipe of weightlifting, stretching and running -- for his recent run of success with Class A Delmarva.
"Honestly, that routine I've been on has been really good," Wells said. "It's been fun these last few starts. I've enjoyed it."
And what's not to enjoy?
Wells was named the Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July as he went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five starts. The 20-year-old gave up 13 hits and struck out 26 in 31 innings.
Wells' scoreless streak is currently at 36 innings, and he's also shown off his 60-grade control by not walking a batter in 42 frames.
MILB Video - Title: Shore Report, 7/30/17 - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1672760983
Ask Delmarva pitching coach Justin Lord about the secret to Wells' success and you'll get a familiar answer.
"I think he's just sort of stuck to his routine," Lord said. "He's stuck to his approach. He's done what he's done all year long. He prepares well and he executes the game plan."
The scoreless streak stands out, but Wells, who has strung together seven consecutive quality starts, has been solid all season and leads the South Atlantic League with a 2.29 ERA through 20 starts.
The lefty posted a 1.00 ERA through four outings in April and a 2.70 ERA through five starts in May.
Wells struggled in June (4.46 ERA in six starts) and had his worst start of the season on June 17, giving up seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, but he bounced back well, an important step in a young player's development.
"He's been challenged this year and that's what's been good to see, is how he's responded to challenges," Lord said. "He's been challenged more than he was in (Class A Short Season) Aberdeen last year. He's had a couple games where he's gone three innings, 4 2/3 and he continues to show maturity when he finds himself in those types of games. That's what you want to see in a pitcher, how he handles adversity."
Similarily, it's important to see how a pitcher handles success and whether they continue to work or if complacency sets in.
Wells has experienced plenty of success lately and his work ethic hasn't dwindled.
"He has continued to work as hard in the last five or six starts as he did in his first five or six starts or his middle five or six starts," Lord said. "Nothing has changed. He's continued to work. He's continued to watch the game and see what hitters are trying to do at the plate and that's been good to see from a young pitcher."
The baseball season has ups and downs, but Wells has been the same guy throughout -- a starting pitcher following a routine.
"It's been a fun season," Wells said. "It's been a really good time. I enjoy hanging out with the guys each day. It's been an awesome experience so far. I hope we finish the season strong."