Right-hander Wilmer Font is showing steady improvement with each start this season, as he continues his return from Tommy John surgery.
The 21-year-old, who went under the knife in October 2010, saw his first post-surgery game action during spring training. He showed little arm speed for much of camp and appeared to be hesitant to let it loose––not an uncommon issue for a pitcher who's coming off arm surgery. Font's fastball ranged anywhere between 85-93 mph in March, often sitting between 88-90.
At his best, the 6-foot-4 prospect can flash elite velocity. He reached the 98-100 mph range in short bursts early in his career and sat between 92-96 during starts with Single-A Hickory in 2009. His velocity had dropped slightly prior to his injury in '10.
Font's first start of the 2012 regular season was a mess, as he yielded four runs on four walks and two hits without recording an out. For the most part, each start since has been progressively better.
During his April 27 outing at Potomac, Font allowed three runs in three innings, walking three and striking out six. Although the overall results weren't dominant, his power fastball showed signs of re-emerging for the first time since surgery.
Font had his best post-surgery start on Wednesday, striking out seven––without walking a batter––in four innings of one-hit, shutout ball. He flashed good command, missed bats, induced ground balls, and––perhaps most importantly––his fastball reached up to 95 mph.
A member of the Rangers' 40-man roster, Font could ultimately be moved to the bullpen, but the club wants to maximize his innings in a starting role––at least for the time being. As he continues his return from the elbow injury, the development of his stuff is more important than the results for the time being.
The Venezuela native has reportedly picked up a slider (although I haven't seen him since spring training) since being assigned to High-A Myrtle Beach. While Font has always flashed a promising changeup, he'd always struggled to find success with his oft-loopy big-breaking curveball. The slider should be a pitch that works better given his arm slot and overall delivery.
There's still a long way to go this season, but the important thing from Font's start on Wednesday is that it appears his velocity is beginning to return as he gets more post-surgery game action.
W - Snyder (1-1)
HR - Mendonca (3)
12-15, 5.0 GB
The Express erased a one-run deficit by plating six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, powering the club to a five-run victory.
Starting pitcher Martin Perez (4.54 ERA/.218 BAA) was erratic throughout his start, throwing only 54 of his 95 pitches for a strike. He allowed four runs on three hits, walking four and striking out two.
Although Perez has yielded only 26 hits in 33.2 innings this season, he has walked 15 while getting 21 strikeouts.
Six of the nine hitters in Round Rock's order recorded multiple hits.
Third baseman Tom Mendonca (.222/.298/.358) led the way by posting his best game of the season, as he went 3-for-4 with a home run and a base on balls.
Catcher Luis Martinez (2/5, 2 2B) doubled twice while Joey Butler (1/4, 2B, BB) hit his 10th two-bagger of the season.
Luis Hernandez (2/4, BB), Yangervis Solarte (2/5), Brad Nelson (2/4, BB) and Matt Kata (2/5) all had two singles apiece. Solarte extended his season-best hitting streak to 13 games and raised his batting average to .294.
After veteran Aaron Heilman yielded a run in 1.2 innings in relief of Perez, left-hander Ben Snyder and righty closer Tanner Scheppers each posted a scoreless frame to finish the game.
Scheppers was particularly sharp in his inning, striking out a pair while throwing nine of 12 pitches for a strike in a 1-2-3 effort.
The 25-year-old Scheppers has the following stat-line over his last four outings––4.2 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 8 k.
W - Grimm (5-1)
SV - Ortiz (2)
17-9, 2.0 GU
Justin Grimm (1.62 ERA/.190 BAA) earned his fifth victory in six Double-A starts on Wednesday afternoon. The 23-year-old yielded a solo home run for the only damage against him in five innings. He gave up three hits and struck out five without walking a batter.
Through 33.1 innings, Grimm has allowed 23 hits, walked six, and fanned 32. He has permitted one run or fewer in five of his six starts this season.
Despite a strong start from San Antonio hurler Juan Oramas, the ‘Riders were able to plate two runs in the first three innings behind the bat of Mike Olt.
Olt (.274/.373/.547), who played his second regular-season game at first base on Wednesday, had a pair of run-scoring doubles in four at-bats. He now has six doubles, a triple, and six home runs in 25 games.
Jurickson Profar (1/4, 2B) added his sixth two-bagger for his only hit in four trips.
Engel Beltre (1/4), Val Majewski (1/3, BB) and Alex Buchholz (1/4) had the club's other three knocks.
The Frisco bullpen slammed the door through the final four innings to preserve the victory for Grimm. Righty Ross Wolf (1.2 IP), lefty Corey Young (1.1 IP) and lefty Joe Ortiz (1 IP) combined on the scoreless effort.
The 5-foot-7 Ortiz (2.31 ERA/.261 BAA) has been good in Double-A thus far, walking one and striking out 10 in his first 11.2 Texas League innings.
W - Rojas (2-0)
13-12, 3.0 GB
Wilmer Font (6.00 ERA/.209 BAA) permitted one single in four shutout innings, striking out seven without walking a batter.
The 21-year-old is showing definite progress with each of his starts––especially stuff-wise––as he continues to make his return from Tommy John surgery. On Wednesday, Font allowed a single in the first but struck out the side. He then induced a popout, a groundout, and a strikeout in the second. After getting three consecutive groundouts in the third, he once again fanned the side in the fourth inning.
Cleanup-hitting first baseman Brett Nicholas raised his average to .279 with three singles in five at-bats. Teodoro Martinez (1/4, 2B), Christian Villanueva (1/5, 2B) and Jared Hoying (1/3, 2B) all doubled once.
Catcher Tomas Telis added two singles in five at-bats.
Sinkerballing right-hander Randol Rojas scattered five hits and two walks in 3.1 innings, allowing only one run. He induced six groundouts (to one flyout) and struck out one.
After Jimmy Reyes retired both batters he faced to finish the eighth inning, closer Randy Henry gave up a run in the ninth. It was the first earned run that Henry has allowed this season, giving him a 0.82 ERA.
L - Lamb (0-2)
HR - Williams (4)
16-9, 1.0 GB
Crawdads starting pitcher Will Lamb (3.57 ERA/.250 BAA) was tagged for a season-high five runs––only two earned––in three innings on Wednesday morning. The 21-year-old gave up five hits while walking two and striking out two.
While Hickory fell behind 8-0 through the first four innings, the offense got a little rally going late, but it wasn't enough in the end.
Left fielder Jeremy Williams (.247/.282/.452) socked a solo home run––his fourth of the season–-for his lone hit in four trips.
Leadoff man Chris Grayson kept his batting average at an even .400 by going 2-for-5 with his 11th double. Red-hot lefty hitter Drew Robinson (.292/.400/.458) had two singles, a walk, and a hit-by pitch in his four plate appearances.
Over his last 10 games, Robinson is 14-for-33 (.424) with three doubles, two homers, seven walks, and eight strikeouts. He's drawn a walk without striking out in each of his last five contests.
Catcher Kellin Deglan was 0-for-1 but walked twice and was also hit by a pitch.
Tall lefty Andrew Faulkner kept the Crawdads relatively close by hurling three scoreless innings out of the bullpen. He scattered four singles and struck out four.
Nick McBride worked a 1-2-3 ninth with one strikeout.
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