W - Perez (1-0)
SV - Scheppers (1)
HR - Bianucci (2), Butler (1)
1-1, 1.0 GB
After scuffling in Triple-A last season, 21-year-old southpaw Martin Perez was both solid and efficient on Friday. It's always important to remember just how young Perez still is. Although he's been in the Rangers' system for a few years, he just turned 21 a few days ago––on April 4.
On Friday, Perez tossed six innings on only 70 pitches (45 strikes). He allowed one run on four hits, walking one and striking out three.
The Venezuela native escaped the first inning despite throwing only four of his 14 pitches for strikes. He settled down from there, firing 41-of-56 in the final five innings and getting eight swings and misses.
As Perez mentioned in this story from spring training, he added a two-seam fastball over the offseason, and he felt it was helping his command. He's done a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone in recent years, but his misses have been more side-to-side than up and down.
If he's consistently getting ahead in counts and locating his two-seam fastball at good velocity, Perez should have success in Triple-A––especially given his above-average curveball and changeup mix. But the key will be proving he can do it with consistency.
Right fielder Joey Butler extended Perez's cushion in the fourth inning with his two-run homer off Iowa starter Casey Coleman. He later added a walk in four trips.
Mike Bianucci's Triple-A career is off to a hot start, as he now has two home runs in his first two Triple-A games. The slugging first baseman was 2-for-4 on the night.
Cleanup man Brad Nelson (2/4, 2 2B) doubled twice while centerfielder Leonys Martin (2/4, BB) filled up the box score with two singles, a walk, two stolen bases, and two outfield assists. Martin, who has an above-average arm from center, gunned down a man at third base and a man at home.
Third baseman Tom Mendonca, playing in his second Triple-A game, was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk.
Veteran reliever Sean Green added a scoreless seventh inning with two strikeouts in relief of Perez.
The game got more interesting when lefty Michael Kirkman entered the contest. The hard-throwing southpaw threw 23 pitches (13 strikes) in two-thirds of an inning, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks.
After Kirkman failed to make the 25-man roster out of camp last year, he went to Triple-A and struggled with his mechanics and overall command early in the season, setting him back for much of the year.
While Kirkman's stuff looked good in camp this year, he'll have to avoid a similar situation in 2012. Friday's outing wasn't the best of starts for the reliever, who certainly has above-average stuff.
Closer Tanner Scheppers came on after Kirkman and slammed the door, getting the final four outs without allowing a hit or a run. He walked one and fanned one, throwing 12 of his 22 pitches within the zone.
Scheppers earned his first save of the young season while Perez got the win.
L - de los Santos (0-1)
HR - Olt (1)
1-1, 0.0 GU
With a lively 88-90 mph fastball and a plus-plus changeup, left-hander Miguel de los Santos is likely to rack up the strikeouts at any level of professional baseball. His issue has been fastball command and the development of a third pitch.
The prospect has improved his curveball into an average third offering over the last year, but the fastball command remains a work in progress.
De los Santos began last season in Double-A but was sent back to Myrtle Beach after he posted an 8.04 ERA in six starts with 17 walks in 28 innings.
Friday's season debut in the Texas League was a better result, although he was stuck with the loss. The Dominican hurler threw 77 pitches (52 strikes) in five innings, yielding two runs. He gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out eight.
The RoughRiders' offense didn't get much going against Springfielder starter and former Rangers draft pick John Gast. The Florida State product tossed seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball.
Gast was the Rangers' fifth-round pick out of high school in 2007. He was considered a top prospect before undergoing Tommy John surgery after his senior year of high school. Instead of signing with the Rangers, he chose to rehab and develop in college.
Three-hole hitter and third baseman Mike Olt provided Frisco's lone run with his solo homer off Gast in the seventh inning––his first round-tripper in Double-A. He also added a single in four trips, going 2-for-4.
DH Alex Buchholz (1/3, 2B) doubled while Leury Garcia (1/4), Chris McGuiness (1/3, BB) and Ryan Strausborger (1/2) singled for the team's other knocks. Strausborger also stole a base and laid down a sacrifice bunt.
In his first two Double-A contests, 19-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar is 0-for-7 with a walk and a strikeout.
Another changeup specialist, right-hander Wilfredo Boscan, worked long relief after de los Santos exited the game. He yielded two runs in three innings, giving up four hits, walking one, and fanning four.
Through the season's first two games, the RoughRiders' pitching staff has fanned 30 batters in 17 innings.
W - R. Henry (1-0)
HR - Telis (1, 2), Richmond (1)
1-0, 0.0 GU
Playing in front of a sellout home crowd on opening night, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans opened their 2012 slate with an all-around strong performance.
At the plate, switch-hitting catcher Tomas Telis began his High-A career by belting a home run from each side of the plate. After hitting one from the left side in the fourth inning, he belted a righty homer in the fifth. Overall, Telis was 2-for-4 with three runs batted in.
Nine-hole hitting right fielder Josh Richmond went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a hit-by pitch in his first Carolina League contest.
Richmond, 22, is coming off an inconsistent season in which he hit .247/.318/.409 at Single-A Hickory. But the Louisville product has some tools including raw power, some athleticism, and a good arm from the outfield. He'll need to develop his pitch recognition in order to cut down on the strikeouts and become more consistent at the plate.
Young right-handed starter Cody Buckel, who doesn't turn 20 until mid-June, fanned seven batters in four scoreless innings on Friday. He gave up two hits and walked three.
Randy Henry (2 IP), Chad Bell (1.2 IP) and Joe Van Meter (1.1 IP) finished off the shutout by combining for five innings of scoreless relief.
Bell, who had a good spring training, was particularly impressive. He gave up one hit in 1.2 innings and fanned three without issuing a free pass.
DH Vin DiFazio (1/4, 2B) doubled and drove home a run while centerfielder Jake Skole (2/3, BB) singled twice and walked once.
The Pelicans hit three home runs on Friday, but Myrtle Beach's ballpark isn't known for being conducive to the long ball. In fact, it's an extreme pitcher-friendly park where the ball rarely flies. Although he played in only 69 games last season, Mike Olt let the team with 14 home runs––he was the only player to reach double-digits.
W - Jackson (1-0)
HR - Cone (1)
1-0, 0.0 GU
The Crawdads played a similar season-opener to their High-A counterparts, getting a dominant pitching performance while scratching out some runs.
Fireballing righty Luke Jackson held Kannapolis to one run in five innings pitched, allowing three hits, walking one, and striking out eight.
Randol Rojas, an upper-80s, low-90s sinkerballer who also mixes in a mature curveball and changeup, recorded five strikeouts in three shutout innings. The Venezuela native allowed two hits and walked one.
Phil Klein finished the victory with a blank ninth, working around one single.
In his first full-season at-bat, right fielder Zach Cone belted a solo home run. He would go 1-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by pitch on the night.
Second baseman Rougned Odor (1/5, 2B) doubled and knocked home two runs. Trever Adams (0/3, BB) and Jordan Akins (1/4) had the other runs batted in.
Akins and leadoff man Luis Sardinas (2/4, BB) did some damage on the base paths, stealing two bases apiece.
Reaching base three times and racking up two seals, Sardinas had an all-around strong full-season debut. The switch-hitting shortstop had a right shoulder injury in 2010 followed by a left shoulder ailment in 2011. Friday was his first-ever game outside of the complex league. Though he's performed well when healthy, his injuries have limited his playing time in his young career.
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