With the changes in minor league baseball, including the Spokane Indians moving to full-season ball and moving the MLB draft later in the summer, there’s less player movement during the season.
But there are still players moving up (and down) the ladder.
Sam Weatherly, a third-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Clemson, went 4-6 with a 4.83 ERA in just 15 starts for Low-A Fresno last season with 96 strikeouts over 69 innings pitched.
He was shut down at the end of July last season with a shoulder injury and made his High-A debut on Sunday. Though he didn’t factor in the decision, it was a promising debut.
And he got a little help from his new catcher.
Drew Romo hit a go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning and the Indians beat the Hillsboro Hops 3-2 in a High-A Northwest League series-concluding game at Avista Stadium.
The Indians (32-29) took four of six from the Hops (28-33).
“It was great,” Romo said of the homer. “Just trying to help my team. Get some good momentum heading into next week.”
Weatherly, a 23-year-old lefty, entered play with one appearance this season, a 2 1/3 inning stint for the Rockies Arizona Complex League outfit on June 7.
“It felt good to get the first start out of the way,” Weatherly said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The young hurler didn’t have his best stuff, but was able to work his way out of a couple of jams and keep his team in the game. Weatherly allowed six hits and a walk with five strikeouts over four innings. He threw 75 pitches, 49 for strikes.
“He wasn’t real sharp, but that was expected coming off the rehab stint in Arizona,” Indians pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “Not real sharp, but I do see some stuff in there. He showed flashes of a good breaking ball and change up. Fastball sneaky too, just location wasn’t there. A little bit of rust, as expected.”
“There’s nothing like building your workload,” Weatherly said. “And tough situations like that, you know, find what you’re made of and make pitches in those in those spots.”
Weatherly was victimized by the short porch in right field in the second inning. A line drive by Tristin English barely cleared the five-foot fence and was caught by a fan in the front row as right fielder Zac Veen, who had positioned himself for a carom, could only watch.
The Indians put two on with two outs in the third. Veen hit a hard grounder to first that took a bad hop over the fielder and into right field. Cristopher Navarro scored easily to tie it, but English came up firing and nabbed Eddy Diaz at the plate for the third out of the inning.
Lyle Lin’s ground ball single up the middle knocked in run to put the Hops up 2-1 in the fourth. With two on and two down, Weatherly fired a fastball past Tim Tawa to get out of the inning without further damage in his last pitch of the day.
“He got a nice workout today to take it all the way to his max pitch count,” Kibler said. “Came out of it healthy, the most important thing as he works his way back.”
Spokane tied it in the sixth. Diaz led off with a single and was awarded second after pitcher Luke Albright stepped off the rubber for the third time in the at-bat. Diaz then stole third base and scored on a two-out, line-drive single by Julio Carreras.
Romo’s shot – which didn’t go as far as English’s homer in the second inning – broke the tie and Austin Kitchen pitched a clean ninth for his first save of the season.
First half champs: With a 13-0 win over Vancouver on Saturday, the Eugene Emeralds (35-24) clinched the first half title and a spot in the Northwest League championship series at the end of the season.
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