TACOMA, Wash. -- Left-hander Danny Hultzen flashed brilliance to the sold-out crowd of 7,435 at Cheney Stadium at times, striking out six and allowing just three hits in his home debut for Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday night. The only run the 2011 first-round pick allowed came in the third when he issued a bases-loaded walk.
But Hultzen also struggled to command the strike zone and he walked four, throwing 90 pitches -- 52 of which were strikes -- in just four innings and was credited with a no-decision in a 11-4 Rainiers loss.
"After the last outing, I just really wanted to get out there again," Hultzen. "I was real excited to pitch tonight. It didn't go as well as we wanted to. I thought I did a little bit better and that's all you can ask for, is improvement. Hopefully it can get better next time."
The story doesn't end there, though. That's because the Rainiers' opponent, the Las Vegas 51s, sent the ageless wonder, Jamie Moyer, to the mound. The 49-year-old pitched for the Mariners for 11 seasons and is the club's all-time wins leader with 145.
In his first start with the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate in an attempt to keep his professional playing career alive, Moyer allowed three runs in five innings and was credited with the win.
Before Moyer entered the storyline, though, the talk was how Hultzen would perform in his first home start. Hultzen lasted just three innings in his Triple-A debut on June 23, taking the loss after giving up five runs on five hits while walking five.
Hultzen showed showed glimpses of how dangerous he could be on the mound on Thursday with a fastball that consistently hit in the low 90s -- and touched 96 mph at one point -- and an offspeed pitch that dropped to 76 mph. After breezing through the first inning, though, Hultzen labored through his last three innings with spotty control.
"Pretty much everything, actually," said Hultzen on what pitches got away from him. "I just couldn't throw strikes, couldn't get ahead of the hitters. But when I do, I feel like I've a really good shot at getting the guy out, so that's something I really, really need to work on. Not only walking people, but getting ahead and throwing more strikes."
Hultzen believes that will come with time. Very conscious of not making any excuses, the lefty pointed to his adjustment periods in Spring Training and Double-A as signs that he thinks his product will become cleaner, more efficient and more effective with time.
"That's the main thing I noticed, is that these guys have an approach that they're going to stick to," he said. "If the ball's two inches off the plate, it might as well be a foot off the plate -- they're not going to swing at it.
"Especially with offspeed pitches, if you're not throwing that for strikes, they notice that. They can sit on pitches. They're a lot more disciplined. I think that's a huge factor."
"He'll get more efficient," Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. "He's done it in Double-A and it's just a matter of time here."
While Hultzen was working his way through the rocky four innings, it wasn't lost on him who he was sharing the mound with.
"That was awesome to watch," he said. "It was really cool to not only play against him, but to watch him. A guy you look up to growing up and you're playing on the same mound as him all of a sudden."
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.