For the second straight year, Emmanuel Ramirez will be the Opening Day starter for the Tri-City Dust Devils.
Second-year Dust Devils manager Ben Fritz announced Tuesday his probable starters for the season-opening, five-game set on the road against Salem Keizer — which begins Thursday — and the 22-year-old right-hander Ramirez was at the top of it once again.
It will be the third season Ramirez has pitched for the Dust Devils and his 14th appearance — all starts. Last year, he earned a no decision in a 5-4 win over Everett on Opening Day by giving up two unearned runs on two hits over four innings. He went on to post a 4-1 record and 2.62 ERA over 44.2 innings in his eight starts before earning a promotion to the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, the Padres’ Low-A affiliate.
He threw another 57 1/3 innings with the Tin Caps last season — pushing his season total to 102 frames — and compiled a 2-3 record with a 4.71 ERA. He’s already made seven relief appearances with Fort Wayne this season, striking out 24 batters in 17 1/3 innings (a ratio much higher than his career average in Class A ball) with a 3.63 ERA.
Eighteen-year-old left-hander Adrian Morejon — who signed an $11 million deal with the Padres last year and is the No. 91 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com — will get the rock Friday night. The Cuban was projected to begin the season in Fort Wayne, but will instead make his pro debut with the Dust Devils because of the MLB Draft going later than usual — it ended Wednesday.
Armed with what Fritz called an “electric arm and good stuff,” Morejon will hope to translate the hype into outs against professional hitters.
“I go out to do my job and try to strike out guys,” Morejon said with fielding coach Oscar Salazar translating. “I just try to be the best pitcher I can be on the mound. I don’t expect to throw 100 to punch everybody out, but I’m going to do my job. Do what’s best for the team.”
After another Dust Devils returner, right-hander Will Stillman, starts Saturday’s tilt, two more youngsters will power Tri-City through the end of the series. Right-handed Henry Henry (18 years old) will take the hill Sunday and southpaw Osvaldo Hernandez (19) will pitch the series finale Monday.
The Padres signed the 6-foot-4 Henry out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for $400,000 when he was 16 and throwing 91 mph.
Hernandez, whose fastball has been clocked between the low and mid 90s, was acquired in March for $2.5 million. He also throws a hard curveball between 76-79 mph.
The Padres spent more than $80 million in the past year on international talent and taxes associated with blowing past the 2016-17 international bonus cap.
Salem-Keizer has yet to announce its starting pitchers for the series.
DUST DEVIL PROBABLE STARTERS VS. SALEM-KEIZER
Thursday (6:35 p.m.): RHP Emmanuel Ramirez (0-2, 3.63 ERA w/ Ft. Wayne)
Friday (6:35 p.m.): LHP Adrian Morejon (rookie)
Saturday (6:35 p.m.): RHP Will Stillman (0-1, 15.00 ERA w/ Ft. Wayne)
Sunday (5:05 p.m.): RHP Henry Henry (1-4, 4.89 ERA w/ AZL and DSL Padres in 2016)
Monday (5:05 p.m.): LHP Osvaldo Hernandez (rookie)