AKRON RUBBERDUCKS - 4, TRENTON THUNDER - 3
Pannone Impresses In Double-A Debut
You could make an argument no pitcher in the Indians organization, including the big league club, has pitched better than Thomas Pannone to start 2017. After wowing in the Carolina League through five starts going 2-0 and allowing only one unearned run on 10 hits through 27.2 innings. That dominance earned him not only Carolina League Player of the Month honors for April, but also an early promotion to Double-A Akron. On Monday, the 23-year-old made his RubberDucks debut and picked up right where he left off in Lynchburg pitching 5.2 more shutout innings while allowing only three hits and three walks and striking out six.
"I was definitely pleased with the outcome," said Pannone, "It wasn't my best overall feel of everything I had, but I got the job done and I'm happy with it."
With that shutout performance, Pannone has now gone six starts and 33.1 innings into the campaign without allowing an earned run. While those zeroes next to his ERA may loom large with each outing, it has not served as any kind of intimidating factor for the southpaw from Rhode Island as he goes about his routines and in-game strategy.
"He made a great adjustment last year," said Akron skipper Mark Budzinski regarding Pannone, "It was some mechanical changes that has really helped with his velocity and direction towards the plate. I thought he did a really good job of establishing the fastball tonight and then working the changeup and breaking ball off of that."
It hasn't been all smoke and mirrors for the former Indians ninth round pick this season, either. While his scoreless streak is not likely to continue all year, Pannone has still been overmatching hitters left and right allowing only 13 hits and 10 walks through his 33.1 innings, adding up to a 0.69 WHIP. Plus, he now has 45 strikeouts to go along with it as his punchout rate is up from 8.3 last year to 12.2 so far this season. His curveball has been a big part of his success getting swings an misses so far this year.
"When I have a count that I feel I can strike a guy out on and I want to bury a pitch, I put a little more effort into it and pull down a little bit harder," the left-hander explained, "And when I'm trying to land for a strike, I take a lot off and pull back to get that loopy shape to it. I'm just trying to ride it off the play of my fastball."
Pannone has come a long way since being the raw talent out of the College of Southern Nevada where he wasn't even a full-time pitcher, but his hard work has paid off as he is looking like a guy who could not only make the major leagues, but also become a valuable arm in the rotation for the Tribe.
Pannone: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R/ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 91 pitches (57 strikes), W.
Thomas Pannone 3rd inning: 89 73 89 75 91 84 84 72 91 91 74
Thomas Pannone 4th inning: 72 86 83 91 91 91 90 90 83 90
Bradley Comes Through With Late Inning Blast
For a while, it looked like Pannone was going to get his first Double-A win as the RubberDucks led 2-0 after his departure in the sixth. However, a three-run eighth inning by the Thunder off veteran reliever Neil Holland gave Trenton a 3-2 lead and Pannone a no-decision. That advantage would be short-lived, though, as Akron slugger Bobby Bradley put the 'Ducks back on top for good with a two-run blast.
"At that point I'm just trying to not let my nerves get too much of me," Bradley explained, "I just rely on the things that I work on and just leave it up to God, is all I do."
It was Bradley's sixth home run of the year and his first hit off a left-handed pitcher as he had gone 0-for-23 against southpaws entering Monday night. It was also the byproduct of a healthier approach overall by the team on Monday as they drew five walks versus seven strikeouts in addition to their nine hits while going 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"Yeah, it was good," Budzinski said about his team's late comeback, "I thought we had much better at-bats overall than we did in the doubleheader [Sunday]. We were more aggressive and ready to hit from the first pitch on. [Trenton starter] Chance Adams threw a good game, too. He's got good stuff. We just fortunately got enough there late."
Hopefully the newfound productivity by the lineup and Bradley's success against left-handed pitching continues as the RubberDucks continue to strive for consistency as a team.
- CF Greg Allen placed on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone in his right hand. He was pulled in Game 2 of Sunday's doubleheader after his first at-bat.