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McCray earns AFL honors after four perfect frames

White Sox right-hander improves to 2-0, takes home Pitcher of Week Award

Special to

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League won't have any perfect games, given the league's innings limits, but Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Stephen McCray came about as close as one can.

The 26-year-old right-hander pitched four perfect innings for the Glendale Desert Dogs in a win against the Salt River Rafters last week, earning his second victory in as many starts as well as the Fall League's second Pitcher of the Week Award for the six-week season. McCray retired his 12 batters on just 38 pitches, striking out two.

Salt River outfielder Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals) earned the Player of the Week Award.

Pitching for the Double-A Birmingham earlier this year, McCray took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of an 8-0 win against Pensacola, a Reds affiliate. He was called up to Triple-A Charlotte shortly thereafter.

"The game in Birmingham and the one here last week were similar," McCray said. "I was able to throw the fastball and work both sides of the plate. I try to work well with my catcher and allow my teammates to play good defense, which they did."

He was quick to give credit to catcher Chris O'Brien (Dodgers), son of former Major League catcher Charlie O'Brien, for helping him in last week's 6-0 win.

"We talked a little bit beforehand about things I like to do, and we were pretty much right on the spot," McCray said. "He was great back there. I think I shook him off once or twice, but that was it."

McCray was 10-7 with a 3.25 ERA in 22 starts at Birmingham, but struggled at Charlotte, going 0-4 in six games (two starts) with an 8.10 ERA.

A 16th-round Draft pick by the White Sox in 2010 out of the University of Tennessee, McCray said the talent level isn't much different between Triple-A than Double-A, but hitters at the higher level are more patient in their approach.

"A lot of them are older and they have a much better idea of what's going on," he said. "My problem was I kept getting behind hitters. You can't afford to do that, and you can't afford to walk guys. I have to keep from trying to do too much. I don't want to force it. I had some not-so-good outings in Charlotte, but I had some good outings, too."

He seems to have found his niche in the Fall League.

"I have made a few mechanical adjustments," he said. "My offspeed pitches have been better, and I have had better command of the fastball. I just have to keep working at it."

McCray hopes to start next season at Triple-A, "although I don't worry about those things. Wherever they want me is fine. I trust the judgment of the organization and will go out and do my best.''

McCray likes starting because it allows him to prepare more, but there is something to be said for coming out of the bullpen.

"The adrenaline rush you get, there is nothing like it," he said. "But I'll pitch in whatever role they want me. It doesn't matter to me, just so I can pitch in the big leagues at some point."

After the Fall League season ends, McCray will rest his arm for about a month before resuming throwing shortly before Christmas.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound McCray admits he is "not a big strikeout guy" -- he punched out 81 in 132 1/3 innings between both levels last season -- but wouldn't mind adding a little more velocity.

"I think everybody would like to be [more of a power pitcher]," he said. "Sometimes you will strike out more than you usually do, sometimes it will be less. What you want to do is keep your pitch count down and let your defense work for you. It's an out, however you look at it."

Don Ketchum is a contributor to

Chicago White Sox, Stephen McCray