THE GAME: Saturday April 8, 2017 against the Pawtucket Red Sox at home for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Weather was a little brisk and windy, with a game time temp of 58-degrees. Winds were around 12 mph and blowing from left to right. Pawtucket beat Lehigh Valley 3-2.
Ricardo Pinto came into the season fresh off of a 7-6, 4.10 ERA season at Double-A Reading in 2016. He's really only in the Triple-A rotation because of the lingering recovery that Zach Eflin is undergoing after offseason bilateral knee surgery. Once Eflin returns, which is likely on Tuesday, Pinto figure to be making the relatively short drive back to Reading.
Pinto has had success in the minors as a starter, but isn't in that upper echelon of starting pitching prospects that the Phillies have assembled. It looks like he's going to be one of those young players who requires a little more development time at the upper levels than some, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have the talent.
WHAT HE SHOWED
Swinging Strikes/Called Strikes/Foul Balls: 26/13/11
First pitch strikes: 10 out of 22 batters
Fastest pitch: 96, Slowest pitch: 71
Leadoff men allowed on: 5 of 6 (one on an error)
Line: 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, LP (0-1)
Pinto came out throwing heat, but as the game went on, he started to mix in more breaking pitches. His first time through the order, Pinto was routinely in the mid-90s, with his average velocity in the first inning being just over 93 mph. Probably because of nerves, Pinto was leaving pitches up in the zone and nine of his first 11 pitches were balls, but he got some help from overanxious hitters. Rusney Castillo grounded to third and after Blake Swihart drew a four-pitch walk, Sam Travis lined a shot to right that first baseman Rhys Hoskins made a leaping play on to turn into a double-play and end the inning.
Around the fourth inning - his second time through the PawSox lineup - Pinto started to cut down on the fastballs and was throwing more of hi secondary pitches. His change-up was sitting in the mid-80s, while his curve was down into the 70s. One problem was that he wasn't mixing his pitches quite as effectively as he needs to. He tried back-to-back sliders to Swihart in the sixth inning and the second one was laced for a base-hit. Even though Pinto seems to disguise his pitches well, Swihart seemed to be sitting on the slider at that point in the game.
Throughout the outing, Pinto allowed leadoff men to reach base, but their presence on the basepaths didn't seem to faze Pinto and he was able to three double-plays, one started on a hard hit ball right back at him that he bobbled, but remain poised and fired a strike to second, giving J.P. Crawford an easy ball to complete the double-play. The first inning double-play was thanks in part to Hoskins' size and fielding ability, because the ball was hard hit and required a pretty good leap from the 6' 4" first baseman.
With runners on, Hoskins varied his delivery times well and kept baserunners from getting a clear and easy read on timing him. He showed an average to slightly above-average pick-off move for a right-hander.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The outing was a bend but don't break type of outing for Pinto. Some of the early hits can be chalked up to some jitters from making his first Triple-A start and simply trying to do too much. The good news is that he stayed poised and didn't get rattled even when an error on Hector Gomez put a leadoff man on base who later scored the first run of the game. Later in the inning, Pinto tried to get two straight change-ups past Matt Dominguez and gave up an RBI base-hit. The next batter was Allen Craig and Pinto looked to throw two straight fastballs past him and got burned with Craig doubled to left to drive in the second run of the inning.
Pinto gave up an unearned run in the sixth after an error by Nick Williams put runners on first and second. Mark Leiter came on in relief one batter later and would wind up walking Craig to load the bases and then allowing a run to score on a fielder's choice groundball.
Considering that there were two errors behind him and he worked himself into trouble by allowing leadoff runners to reach, Pinto did a nice job of working out of situations with runners on base and didn't let anything get to him on the mound. The 23-year old right-hander has decent stuff, but needs to find consistency. His delivery and release point generally stayed constant, which is something Pinto can struggle with at times.
OTHER GAME NOTES
Catcher Jorge Alfaro showed why there is so much to like about him. His defense was really impressive. He comes out from behind the plate to make a play on a bunt or weak dribbler quickly and has an accurate cannon for an arm. He nailed the lead runner on third on a little dribbler after firing out and having to make an off-balance throw to nail Dominguez at third. He showed the same sort of ability on a dribbler by Travis in the eighth inning of the game.
Alfaro also showed decent speed on the bases, beating out an infield single for the second straight night. He also showed good instincts and speed moving up to second on a wild pitch after legging out the infield single.
Speaking of baserunning, Jesmuel Valentin got thrown out trying to stretch a play for the second night in a row. Friday night, he was trying to take an extra base on a fielding error and Saturday, he was trying to stretch a single into a double. The problem is that both nights, Valentin hesitated on the play instead of being decisive and going for the next bag. Without the hesitation, he's safe on both plays.
The IronPigs have struck out 25 times in their first two games. The only guy who hasn't struck out is Cam Perkins. The steady outfield prospect is 2-for-5 in the early going, with a double and a single to go along with three walks that has his OBP at .625 after two games. Perkins is often forgotten in the discussion of young outfield prospects in the system, and doesn't have the ceiling that others do, but he''s a solid, steady player who profiles as a major league fourth outfielder at this point. He's also shown good things defensively.
Reliever Mark Leiter - 2 2/3 IP, 0 H, - R, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 WP - looked good in relief of Pinto Saturday night. The IronPigs were going to use Leiter for an emergency start Sunday in a double-header, but instead, moved Nick Pivetta up to make the start. The moves create an opening for a starter on Tuesday, which will likely be filled by Zach Eflin. Leiter threw 44 pitches, 25 for strikes, which isn't a great percentage, but he was able to be effective. If he harnesses the command, he can be a solid bullpen arm.