It was a good day in Wilmington even though they split their doubleheader against Myrtle Beach. The Blue Rocks dropped their first game, 4-0.
Why was a loss good? Because right-hander Kyle Zimmer made his season debut after dealing with another health issue this spring. He didn’t last as long as the team had hoped (three innings), but he showed why people still love his stuff.
Zimmer struck out the side in the first, with the Pelicans late on most of his pitches. However, he threw 24 pitches. In the second, he had two quick strikeouts, making the hitters look silly. Then he labored a bit. After a triple, he walked the next two hitters to end his night.
Fellow righty Zach Lovvorn followed and escaped the 2nd inning jam by getting a line out. Lovvorn was once again a hard luck loser (he is now 0-5), as he allowed all four runs on six hits and two walks over 4.2 innings. He left with the bases loaded in the seventh and one scored.
The Blue Rocks offense was held in check by Pelicans starter Erick Leal, who held them to two singles through five innings before giving up two bloop singles to start the sixth.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him [Zimmer] pitch,” manager Jamie Quirk said following the doubleheader split. “I like it. Obviously, he had to work too hard…He’ll get better. That was his first competitive time on the mound this year. He’s been in Arizona pitching on the back fields…He looked very professional out there. He’s polished…You can tell he’s ready for Triple-A, he just needs to get his pitch count up…We’ll know tomorrow how he feels.”
The Blue Rocks won the second game, 2-0. The story was starter Pedro Fernandez. He flat out dominated. So completely different from the pitcher I saw struggle mightily last season.
Fernandez struck out the first batters in the first and second innings on three pitches. He had at least one strike out in every inning but the fifth (he finished with eight). Oh and he did not allow a base runner until Jason Vosler lined a single over the head of shortstop Humberto Arteaga with one out in the fifth.
Even then, Fernandez was not rattled. Two pitches later, he induced an inning ending double play. The Pelicans would get a lead off single in the sixth, followed by a stolen base (it was a close play). However, Fernandez escaped with two more strikeouts.
After a strikeout to lead off the seventh, the Pelicans collected their third hit. That runner was quickly erased on a game ending double play.
In his first ever complete game, Fernandez did not walk a batter and only faced one over the minimum.
“Pedro was outstanding,” Quirk said. “He had a very good fastball. His changeup was good tonight, but he didn’t over do it…His changeup is very good, but he needs to throw less of them like he did tonight. Just to get them off the fastball…He got wound up in the last inning, understandably it was the ninth inning for him…His control, no walks. He pounded the strike zone. He stayed the aggressor, instead of his last outing, he tried to trick and that’s not him. He’s a power pitcher.”
The Blue Rocks offense got on the board in the bottom of the first as Corey Toups led off with a single. With one out, Toups took off for second base as Wander Franco connected on a double (Toups scored). They added another run in the fourth on Robert Pehl‘s RBI double (though there was some poor base running that inning).
How did the rest of the KC Royals minor league teams fare on Saturday night?
Triple-A Omaha held on to beat Iowa, 5-4. The Cubs scored a run in the ninth and had the bases loaded, but Peter Moylan rebounded to get a ground out to end the game (he had walked and hit the first two batters he faced).
That came after the Storm Chasers scored their fifth run in the bottom of the eighth on an Angel Franco two out single.
In his first Triple-A game, third baseman Hunter Dozier singled in two runs in the bottom of the first. The Storm Chasers collected eight hits, though Jose Martinez went 4-for-4.
Starter Luke Farrell took the no decision, as he allowed a run on four hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out seven.
*In roster news, Clayton Mortensen was placed on the inactive list and reliever Evan Beal was added from Wilmington.
Double-A NW Arkansas shut out Arkansas in their series opener, 3-0. The game was scoreless until the fifth.
Bubba Starling led off the fifth with a double. Mauricio Ramos singled him to third base, and Frank Schwindel drove in Starling with a sac fly. In the sixth, Starling doubled in a run and Ramos followed with an RBI single.
Starter Christian Binford earned his third victory, as he allowed five hits and walked two over 7.1 innings. He struck out eight.
Binford allowed a single in the first, which was erased on a double play. He allowed a double in the fourth, but the runner was erased on a double play. He allowed a single to lead off the fifth and then back-to-back singles with one out in the eighth before being pulled.
In came lefty Eric Stout, who got two fly outs to escape the 8thinning. Stout then pitched a perfect ninth for his first save.
*In roster news, catcher Zane Evans was activated from the DL to fill out the Naturals roster at 25.
Low-A Lexington lost their opener in Greensboro, 9-3. The Grasshoppers scored four runs in the first and never looked back.
The Legends collected just four hits, two by Tanner Stanley in the ninth spot in their order. He also drove in run and scored another in the fifth.
Nolan Watson dropped to 0-3, as he allowed five runs on four hits and three walks over four innings. He allowed a two out, grand slam in the first.
Nik Stephenson followed and allowed three runs on five hits and a walk over two innings. Daniel Concepcion made his season debut by allowing a run on one hit over two innings.