The nature of minor league baseball means players are promoted and demoted, signed and released – and sometimes retired – on a near-constant basis.
It the past two weeks, the Spokane Indians have had two pitchers promoted and one unexpectedly announce his retirement, so reinforcements were recently supplied by the parent club, the Colorado Rockies.
One of those pitchers, Will Ethridge, was called up from Low-A Fresno and made his Indians debut Friday night. After a dicey start, he settled in nicely – until he was bitten by the injury bug.
Cameron Eden clubbed a three-run homer in the first inning and a five-run outburst in the fifth lifted the Vancouver Canadians over the Indians 9-4 in the fourth of a six-game High-A West series on Friday.
Ethridge, the Rockies’ 2019 fifth-round pick, went 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA across 31⅔ innings in six starts for Fresno. His High-A debut was something of a mixed bag.
Ethridge allowed seven runs, six earned, over four-plus innings on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts before leaving with an injury. He also retired 12 in a row.
“I thought he was better than the line score is going to show,” Indians pitching coach Ryan Kibler said.
“I was pleased with it. I was really pleased with his delivery, his tempo, his effort level, locating overall. Solid effort, I was very pleased with it.”
Ethridge was greeted rudely by the Canadians (20-14). He i walked the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters, then Eden lofted a fly to left-center that nestled into the net above the wall for a three-run home run.
“Definitely nerves,” Ethridge said. “I knew going into it that these guys hit the ball pretty well. I learned that on the third batter of the game.”
The homer must have settled the 23-year-old starter, as he struck out the next three batters – on nine pitches. Ethridge went on to mow down 12 in succession before finding trouble again.
“It wasn’t the home run that was the issue – it was the walks that bothered me,” Ethridge said. “Because I’m not a guy that really walks a lot of guys.”
“He had a couple of walks there, made a mistake, leaves one in the middle of the plate right out of the gate,” Kibler said. “But you got to get fired up for punching out the side right behind that.”
Vancouver’s Sebastian Espino led off the fifth with a long fly that skimmed the tall outfield wall in center for a triple. Ronny Brito sent one to the wall for an RBI double and he took third on a fumbled exchange. DJ Neal grounded to second, but Isaac Collins booted it and Brito scampered home.
A single by leadoff hitter Tanner Kirwer brought out Kibler. After a brief discussion, trainer Coy Coker joined them, and Ethridge’s night was finished.
Kibler and Ethridge described the injury as a minor twinge in his right forearm. He was checked out after the game and both are confident he’ll make his next start.
“Just a little scary. It tightened up on the last slider I threw,” Ethridge said. “Just wasn’t comfortable staying out there with that tightening up.”
“I think he made a good decision being careful with it there,” Kibler said.
Moises Ceja took over and a walk, single and sacrifice fly brought in three more runs.
The Indians (14-20) broke up the shutout in the fifth on an RBI double by Collins. Kyle Datres delivered a two-run single in the ninth.
Canadians starter Adam Kloffenstein, the No. 9 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, was coming off losses in three consecutive starts. The 20-year-old right-hander went five innings and allowed one earned run on three hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
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