In the late 1990s, the Boston Red Sox were one of the first clubs to blaze a scouting trail in Southeast Asia, but the club emerged with only a handful of prospects.
Kevin Huang looked like one Friday night.
The 21-year-old right-hander worked four innings with a mix of 92 mph fastballs and breaking pitches for pinpoint command, helping the Augusta GreenJackets scratch out a 1-0 win over the Rome Braves at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"I used to worry about my high ERA when things weren't good, but I forget about that now," said Huang, whose given name is Jun-Chung but has gone by Kevin since an English teacher gave all her foreign student American names. "Now I feel better and I am having more success."
Huang limited the Braves to three hits and walked one while striking out six, including the final three batters he faced.
Reliever Milton Tavarez (1-0) - who pitched for the Jackets last season under the name Rafael Sanchez - worked four innings of one-hit relief with five strikeouts to pick up the victory.
Mike Garber pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.
The Jackets scored their lone run in the second inning on an RBI single by Thursday night's hero, Brett Bonvechio.
The first Taiwanese player signed by the Red Sox in July 2000, Huang had a successful U.S. debut in 2001, going 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 innings for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Red Sox and short-season Class A Lowell.
Huang entered last season as the No. 15 prospect in the organization by Baseball America, but his stock dropped considerably. Despite posting a 6-2 record with four saves and 56 strikeouts in 59 innings for Augusta, Huang was hit hard at times and finished with a 5.06 ERA in 29 appearances.
Through the first three months of 2003, Huang struggled with inconsistency. He finished April with a 10.13 ERA in five relief appearances, then got on a roll after moving into the starting rotation in early May, going 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA.
From May 5 through June 19, Huang went 2-3 with a 4.35 ERA, allowing 35 hits and 16 walks in 39 1/3 innings.
Since then, he's been lights out. In his past four outings (17 innings), Huang has not allowed an earned run, giving up 10 hits and four walks while striking out 18 batters.
With Friday's outing, Huang lowered his ERA to 4.18. He also took over the club lead in strikeouts, with 65 in 60 1/3 innings.
"He's had a bunch of good outings," Jackets manager Russ Morman said. "The difference now is his ability to throw pitches for strikes and to get ahead. His command of the fastball has been outstanding. And he's finishing (hitters) off once he gets ahead."
Jackets 1, R-Braves 0
TURNING POINT: The Jackets scored their only run in the second inning on an RBI-single by Brett Bonvechio.
BIG BAT: Jackets catcher Addison Bowman wen 2-for-4 with a double.
TOP GUN: Augusta starter Kevin Huang pitched four shutout innings and struck out six.
FOR THE RECORD: WP-Milton Tavarez (1-0). LP-Anthony Lerew (5-5).
Save-Mike Garber (2).
ON DECK: The Jackets open a three-game series on the road against South Georgia today and return home Tuesday to open a three-game series vs. Savannah.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3524.