Chris Devenski began his professional baseball career as a relief pitcher but prefers to be a starter.
It's a good thing the Lexington Legends let him have his way.
The 21-year-old right-hander struck out 16 batters Saturday night and pitched the first individual no-hitter in Legends history in Lexington's 10-0 victory over Rome at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
"I like going deeper into the game," he told MILB.com after the game. "When I was in the 'pen, I was only a one- to two-inning guy. And since I moved to the rotation, it's given me a chance to pitch deeper into ball games and give my team a better chance to win."
Devenski (8-7) pitched past the seventh inning for the first time in his two-year minor-league career on Saturday. His only blemish was a fifth-inning walk to Rome's Kyle Kubitza.
"Everything was working for me out there," Devenski told MILB.com. "I'm proud of myself and proud of my teammates for grinding it out with me."
A 25th-round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2011, Devenski's previous career high was nine strikeouts.
The 6-foot-3 Devenski said he is a changed pitcher since the Legends acquired him Aug. 3 as the "player to be named later" in the Houston Astros trade that sent pitcher Brett Myers to the Chicago White Sox.
"When I came over from Kannapolis, (the Lexington staff) had me start working from the third-base side of the mound," Devenski told MILB.com. "I've been working on my stride length with (pitching coach) Dave Borkowski and working on keeping the ball down in the zone. Everything that I've been doing in the bullpen, everything I've been working on day in and day out is translating into my game."
Devenski went 6-5 with a 4.23 ERA for Kannapolis before being moved to Lexington. With the Legends, he is 2-2 with a 3.07 ERA over five starts and 291⁄3 innings. Over 91 innings with the Intimidators and Legends this season, he has totaled 92 strikeouts and 35 walks.
On Saturday, Devenski said he benefited from the Legends taking a 3-0 first-inning lead on Matt Duffy's home run.
"It was awesome to have a solid lead," he told MILB.com. "Every pitcher loves to play with a lead, and for me, when I have a lead I just say that I'm going to come right after the (batter) and let him put the ball in play."
The Legends' only previous no-hitter took place on July 30, 2001, a combined effort by Derek Stanford, Chris George and Kirk Saarloos in Lexington's first season.
"It's unreal, man," Devenski told MILB.com during Saturday's post-game revelry. "I'm standing here with shaving cream all over my face, surrounded by all the guys, there's fireworks going off. This is amazing."
■ Sunday's Legends game against Rome was rained out and will not be made up. Lexington plays its season finale Monday at 12:05 p.m.