Parker Mushinski isn’t getting ahead of himself.
Statistics suggest the Quad-Cities pitcher has been dominant during the initial outings of his first full-season assignment in professional baseball.
Off to a 1-0 start with a 1.75 earned run average, Mushinski has allowed more than one earned run on just one occasion in his six outings for the River Bandits.
He has struck out at least five batters in each appearance he has made and has limited opponents to a .191 batting average while striking out 39 batters and walking 15 over 25.2 innings of work.
Mushinski suggests the numbers don’t tell the entire story as he adjusts to a new role.
"Any time you work five innings and you give up one run, you’re doing your job and giving your team a chance, but I’m still learning things every time I pitch," Mushinski said.
He continues to work on getting his repetition down, being able to repeat his delivery while executing the game plan he has put together with Quad-Cities' catchers.
A seventh-round draft pick by the Astros out of Texas Tech in 2017, the 6-foot lefthander finds himself in a starting role for the first time in five years.
Mushinski was rated by Perfect Game as the top left-handed pitcher in Texas high schools as a senior in his hometown of Argyle, Texas, earning all-state honors and building a commitment to conditioning he developed in the Argyle High School wrestling room.
"I couldn’t crack the lineup, but I did learn from how those guys train, what it takes to prepare and how you need to condition yourself," Mushinski said.
Once he reached the collegiate level, Mushinski found himself used primarily as a relief specialist during his collegiate career.
After undergoing surgery following his freshman year with the Red Raiders, he helped Texas Tech win a Big 12 championship and clinch its second College World Series berth as a sophomore, gaining experience that positioned him to be selected in last year’s draft.
The Astros made it clear to Mushinski from the start that they envisioned him working as a starter, and as he struck out 40 batters in 30 innings of work last season for Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, they began the process of stretching out the length of his outings to prepare him for this season.
"It’s a different mindset," Mushinski said. "I haven’t worked seven innings in a game since high school. To go out and work five innings and throw 70, 80, 90 pitches, it’s been an adjustment."
It’s a change that has benefited Mushinski in at least one significant way.
"Coming in out of the pen in college, knowing that you’d just work an inning or two, you prepare a certain way. Now, knowing that you’re going to see a hitter a couple of times, the approach changes," Mushinski said.
It puts a premium on being able to execute a variety of pitches in a variety of situations.
That has created a learning opportunity for Mushinski.
"It’s been good for me in a lot of ways," Mushinski said. "I’ve learned that my stuff is better than I thought, that it doesn’t always have to be about the (velocity). I can throw strikes and perform at a high level relying on more than a fastball."
Mushinski has worked with River Bandits coaches to simplify his delivery this year and now finds himself working with velocity that has on averaged dropped a couple of miles per hour.
"But, by mixing my pitches as I work on the delivery, I’ve been able to maintain my effectiveness," he said.
River Bandits manager Mickey Storey likes the competitiveness that he sees in Mushinski.
"He has a way of making big pitches when he needs them the most," Storey said. "His numbers for the year are good, but the outings at times may not be as clean as the numbers suggest, but I see him learning as he works, which is what you hope for."
An effective cutter has helped Mushinski move forward as he learns from the situations he finds himself facing in the Midwest League.
In his most recent start against Lake County, he scattered three hits over five innings but found himself in trouble in one inning when he recorded three of the five walks he had in that game.
"When that happened, I took an extra step or two before facing the next batter, gave myself a chance to breathe and refocus," Mushinski said. "It’s developing that ability to move on and get back in control that makes the difference.
"I’ve still got a long ways to go to get to where I want to be, but it’s moments like those and the ability to learn from them that will help me accomplish my goals."