Three pitchers under the age of 20 got a shot to start for the Tri-City Dust Devils in the first trip through the rotation this past week, and none disappointed.
Adrian Morejon and Osvaldo Hernandez made their professional debuts and Henry Henry made his first Dust Devils appearance in starts against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Tri-City’s season-opening road series, which the team went 4-1 on.
Tri-City manager Ben Fritz said all three pitchers — signed out of either Cuba or the Dominican Republic — and the rest of the young guys getting an early taste of the Tri-Cities, showed poise beyond their years.
“I was really impressed with how they reacted to everything,” Fritz said. “It was a really quick learning curve for everything. To see that nervous energy at first, and then to see it go away so quick, and to see them to realize it’s just the same game we were playing in Arizona, but now there’s lights and fans, it was great.”
Morejon — an 18-year-old lefty signed by the San Diego Padres for $11 million last year — started the second game of the series, on Friday, which the Dust Devils lost 8-6. His day got off to a rough start when he gave up a leadoff homer to Malique Ziegler, but he settled down and ended up allowing just two more base runners — both on singles — in his three innings of work, eventually leaving the game with a 3-1 lead.
“I felt comfortable,” Morejon said of his first start, with fielding coach Oscar Salazar translating. “In the first couple of innings, I got a little bit nervous, but after that I felt really good.”
Tagged as the No. 91 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, Morejon is scheduled to start Thursday in the series finale against the Spokane Indians — the three-game home set began Tuesday night.
Henry struggled to keep runners off base in his start Sunday, giving up four hits and hitting two batters, but he gave up just one run, also in the first, in 2 2/3 innings of the Dust Devils 4-3 win. The one run Hernandez allowed in Monday’s 7-4 win was unearned, and he gave up two hits and a walk while striking out four in 3 1/3 innings.
“Both of those guys (Henry and Hernandez), they went out there and competed and acted like they should be here,” Fritz said. “And they should, but a lot of times in your first outing, you’ve got so many nerves that you lose a little bit of control of what you’re doing. I was extremely proud of what all those guys did when they went out there, they composed themselves and went about their work, and it looked normal to them.”
ROSTER REVAMP IS LIKELY
Last season, the Padres used Tri-City as a proving ground for most of their rookie draft picks coming out of college. Because the draft came a bit later in the year this season, none of the players on the Dust Devils’ roster fit that description when they played their home opener Tuesday.
Change is likely on the horizon for the Dust Devils, but the timing of that change, and the significance of it, is still up in the air.
“I don’t know if it will be as big as I initially thought,” Fritz said. “I don’t have a time frame yet, I’m sure there might be some guys trickling in by the end of this home stand, but that’s just a guess on my part.”
Tri-City has not announced a probable starting pitcher past Morejon on Thursday. The Everett AquaSox come to town Friday for a three-game weekend series to wrap up the Dust Devils’ first home stand of the season.
TRI-CITY 7, SALEM-KEIZER 4:
After Hernandez sustained minimal damage while getting the first 10 outs, the Dust Devils poured it on late, scoring two runs each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, to pick up their fourth win in the series finale of the five-game set.
Kelvin Melean went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and a run scored to boost his batting average to .375 to lead Tri-City (4-1), which had the best record in the Northwest League entering Tuesday’s games.