One of the great things about minor league baseball is trying to guess which players on the field could end up in the big leagues.
It’s not everyday – especially at the High-A level – fans are treated to a player that has already been to “The Show.”
Such was the case on Wednesday, as the Spokane Indians’ parent club, the Colorado Rockies, assigned starting pitcher Peter Lambert to the roster for a rehab assignment.
Lambert, a 24-year-old right-hander, is a promising pitching prospect in an organization in dire need of them. In his MLB debut on June 6, 2019, he set a Rockies record by striking out nine in his first start.
But Lambert injured his elbow during 2020 spring training and underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction – commonly known as “Tommy John surgery” – in July that year. Wednesday marked his first appearance since the procedure and all things considered, it was successful performance.
Once Lambert got through two scoreless innings, regular starter Chris McMahon took over and dominated to help the Indians beat the Hillsboro Hops 6-1 in the first game of a six-game High-A West series at Avista Stadium.
[BOX SCORE courtesy MILB.com]
McMahon (7-3), who is one off the league lead in starts this season, made his first relief appearance of the season – a scheduled “piggyback” appointment with Lambert. He went seven innings and allowed one run – a solo homer in the ninth – on four hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
“Honestly, warming up in the pen was probably one of the worst I’d ever been,” McMahon said. “And I don’t know what happened, I just went out there and thought, ‘Now I guess everything’s fine.’ So that’s just kind of the way it goes sometimes.”
“He was finishing with his fastball so much better tonight, especially in the early innings,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “He has a tendency to want to try to finish with his off-speed stuff.”
“Scouting report and stuff like that, I guess guys are starting to spit on the off-speed a little bit more,” McMahon said. “So I’m just playing it off the fastball, fastballs up and out of the zone. They like to swing it, so trying to take advantage of that.”
McMahon escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth with a strikeout and pop out. He gave himself a little pep talk.
“‘Just relax. Relax, just one pitch away, one pitch at a time.’” he said. “‘If I’m able to execute I’ll be able get out of this.’”
Lambert got off to a solid start.
He showed a 91-mph fastball to leadoff hitter Jorge Barrosa before getting him to swing through a biting breaking ball for strike three. Cam Couresy bounced out to second on weak contact. After Lambert hit Andy Yerzy with an errant change-up, Tristin English popped up to end the inning.
“It felt really good,” Lambert said. “It was good to get back out there and some game action, get some adrenaline going.”
Lambert said everything felt fine physically when he was finished.
“Going into my first game in almost two years, I don’t think I really had any goals, other than, you know, roll up strikes, get some swings,” Lambert said. “I was just excited to be back out there and just wanted to go out there and feel good and toss strikes.”
“It was great to see,” Little said. “You don’t really have much expectations for a guy who hadn’t pitched in so long. He’s just always been a competitor.”
Lambert gave up a couple long fly balls that died in front of the track and finished the second inning with a check-swing strikeout of Nick Dalesandro on another breaking ball. Lambert threw 32 pitches, 21 for strikes.
“His stuff is getting better and better as he gets bigger and stronger,” Little said. “I tip my cap to him, he’s worked hard to get to where he is.”
The Indians got on the board in the bottom of the second. Grant Lavigne led off with a single, went to second on a single by Daniel Montano and scored on an infield single by Aaron Schunk.
They added to the lead in the fourth. With two down, Brenton Doyle singled, stole second and scored on a singe by Montano.
Jack Blomgren led off the fifth with a single and scored after consecutive base hits by Ezequiel Tovar and Hunter Stovall. With two down Lavigne laced a single that plated two more to make it 5-0.
Doyle clubbed a solo homer to straight center in the sixth, his 11th of the season.
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