Livingston Right at Home as Missions' Ace
One game into the young season, the 22-year old notched the team's first quality start, going six innings and allowing just one earned run while striking out five Corpus Christi Hooks.
"I felt good," Livingston said. "I just went out there and threw strikes, got ground balls, and kept the guys in the game."
Ever so steady, despite the second biggest opening crowd at the Wolff, Livingston was a model of efficiency, throwing 55 strikes to just 24 balls, working the entire plate and consistently getting ahead of the opposing batters. He left the game with the score tied at one apiece. The Missions eventually won on a walk-off home run from leftfielder Jon Nelson.
"I just wanted to play to the best of my ability and get the job done. You move the ball in and out," Livingston said. "I think I threw the best I have in a long time. I was able to throw off-speed stuff when I needed to, and the defense played well behind me."
On hand to witness Livingston's impressive first start was new pitching coach Dwight Bernard, who served as Livingston's pitching coach a year ago when they were both at Inland Empire in the California League.
"We're with him," Bernard said. "He's a guy that can mix the fastball in and out, use his changeup well and use his breaking ball in the zone. I mean, that's the type of guy you want to open the season and set a standard for the rest of the guys."
Bernard has had the luxury of watching the pitcher grow into a top flight prospect within the farm system, and while Livingston obviously has talent and skill, there is something less tangible that the pitching coach attributes his success.
"He's learning to use his fastball more in situations, instead of relying on his offspeed pitches as far a changeup or even a breaking ball goes, said Bernard. "That's making those pitches that much more effective. His biggest attribute, though, would have to be his work ethic. I will remember him moreso, when he leaves, for that than anything else.
"A pitcher's got to have his stuff, but he works hard and goes about his business the right way, too."
A season ago, Livingston started the opener for Bernard as a Sixty-Sixer, and that experience weighed heavily in Missions manager Dave Brundage giving the ball to the youngster, yet again.
"He went eight innings for a shutout last year and that's one reason we gave him the start this year," Bernard said. "We knew he could handle the pressure. Brundy didn't have a problem with who I put first in the order, and he did a great job for us."
Livingston feels more than ready for his promotion, but did acknowledge a tougher challenge in facing Double-A hitters.
"The biggest change is that the hitters are thinking with you," said the 22-year-old southpaw. "You've got to think about the small stuff. A few guys last night were sitting on my changeups. You've just got to adjust, and yesterday was a good experience for me. I just want to come out and stay healthy and do what I've been doing my whole life. You've got to throw a lot of strikes, move the ball around, and just do what it takes to win the ballgame."
After Livingston's impressive, eye-opening outing, it is safe to say the left-hander has quite a future ahead, and the team's expectations are just the same.
"Well, everybody feels we've got a pretty good club," said Bernard. "There's no question we've got to execute. Our pitchers our going to have to keep us in the ballgame for nights like (Thursday) where we aren't hitting."
If Livingston can deliver more outings like his first of the 2005 season, the Missions won't be needing much offense, anyways.
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