VANCOUVER, B.C. – Not a bad way to get a season started.
The Spokane Indians scored early and often, picked up a stellar starting performance and downed the Vancouver Canadians 9-1 in the Northwest League opener for both teams on Friday afternoon at Nat Bailey Stadium.
Indians first-year manager Kenny Hook sent out 20-year-old right-hander Ricky Vanasco against the Canadians’ 6-foot-5, 245-pound Adam Kloffenstein – the Toronto Blue Jays’ No. 6 overall prospect in their system.
Vanasco, a 15th-round pick in the 2017 MLB draft of the Texas Rangers, struck out seven in four shutout innings and allowed two hits and two walks. He threw 50 of his 80 pitches for strikes, but did not qualify for the win since he didn’t pitch five innings.
Teodoro Ortega was awarded the win with two shutout innings of relief with three strikeouts.
Luis Asuncion hit a two-run homer and Cristian Inoa drove in a pair of runs for the Indians.
Kloffenstein, still just 18 years old, was instructed by the home-plate umpire to remove his watch during his pregame warmups, then recovered to strike out the first two batters he faced.
Indians newcomer Ryan Anderson followed with a single, then Asuncion lofted a ball down the left-field line that carried to the wall and bounced off left fielder McGregory Contreras’ glove and over the fence for a two-run homer.
Anderson made a terrific diving catch in left to help Vanasco to a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half. The young righty touched 98 with his fastball.
Vanasco struck out the side in the second – including a called strike three on a changeup to designated hitter Ronny Brito.
In the third, Jayce Easley – son of longtime MLB player Damion Easley – drew a walk, went to second on a fielder’s choice and moved to third on a passed ball with one down.
Inoa grounded to third, but Cameron Eden couldn’t handle the bounce and all hands were safe – with Easley scoring without a throw. Inoa moved over to third on a Kloffenstein throwing error and came home on a passed ball to make it 4-0.
Kloffenstein was done after three. He allowed four runs – two earned – on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts on 60 pitches.
An infield single by Obie Ricumstrict loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth against Felipe Casteneda. Easley popped out to first, but Starling Joseph ripped a ground-ball single to left to plate one and Inoa brought in another on a ground out.
Vanasco found some trouble in the fourth. With two down, he issued his first walk of the game, Brito dumped a single in front on Anderson in left and Jesus Lopez walked to load the bases.
But with his 80th and last pitch of the day, Vanasco got Contreras to swing through a fastball for his seventh strikeout to keep the Canadians off the board.
The Indians picked up two more runs in the fifth. Asuncion walked, went to third on a dropped fly ball by Contreras in left and scored on a sacrifice fly by David Garcia, the Rangers’ No. 29 prospect.
Jonah McReynolds, who reached on the dropped fly, came home on a wild pitch to make it 8-0.
Inoa led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Jonah McReynolds.
Vancouver broke up the shutout in the ninth off reliever Daniel Robert. Lopez hit a one-out double and scored on a single by Yorman Rodriguez.
Wyatt Sparks, a 19-year-old who was a 23rd-round pick of the Rangers in last year’s draft, will start for the Indians on Saturday against the Canadians at 7:05 p.m.
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