SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.—Dinelson Lamet did not have his usual swing-and-miss stuff Wednesday night.
And still, he delivered a quality start and lowered his already-miniscule ERA.
The Padres’ No. 17 prospect pitched six innings, gave up three hits and one run, walked one and struck out three for high Class A Lake Elsinore against Inland Empire, ultimately settling for a no-decision in a 3-1 loss.
The 23-year old Dominican righthander lowered his ERA to 1.67 and his WHIP to 1.19 with the effort, despite tying his season low for strikeouts.
“As a starter I’m trying to have less pitches and I’m not worried about strikeouts,” Lamet said through a translator. “I’m trying to throw less pitches and be more effective.”
Lamet added a changeup to his arsenal in spring training, and it has made him more dangerous than ever. With nearly identical arm speed, he flashed a 92-94 mph fastball that could get up to 96 and an 84-86 mph changeup that led to a tremendous amount of weak popups and lunging grounders. He mixed in an 87-89 mph slider to put batters away later in counts, and ultimately threw 60 of his 88 pitches for strikes.
“I thought he threw the ball very well tonight,” Lake Elsinore pitching coach Glendon Rusch said. “Commanded his fastball both sides, down in the zone, slider was sharp, changeup was good, altogether a really good performance I thought.”
Most encouraging, Lamet held his velocity and command into the later innings without issue. He retired nine of the final 10 batters while staying firmly in the mid-90s with his fastball.
It’s a trend that has been present all year. He has a zero ERA in fifth and sixth innings this season. Overall, he has allowed only two runs after the third inning all year.
“He’s in the area of where he’s trying to go,” Lake Elsinore manager Lance Burkhart said. “He found his way out of some jams when he needed to, that’s the big thing for me.”
Lamet showed moxie and maturity as well. After a triple by rehabbing Angels shortstop Cliff Pennington to lead off the sixth, Lamet got a weak groundout from Hutton Moyer to keep Pennington at third, struck out Caleb Adams with a perfectly placed slider, and got Taylor Ward behind on a fastball to line out to first to escape unscathed.
Including that escape, Lamet has held opponents to a .106 batting average with runners in scoring position.
“When the guy was on third I was thinking in my mind ‘that guy cannot score,’” Lamet said.” I worked through it with my catcher and in those situations just do everything my catcher says.”
It was the final inning of Lamet’s night, one that was representative of his ability to make pitches when he needed to and be effective even without some of his strikeout stuff.
“He got some early outs, pitch counts was low, we’ll take that all day,” Rusch said. “He does a pretty good job of keeping his command in check. He does a really good job all around.”
Luis Urias, the Padres No. 27 prospect and the youngest player in the Cal League at 18, continued to look beyond his years. The 5-foot-9 Mexican middle infielder was 2-for-4, including with a double off rehabbing Angels starter C.J. Wilson, to raise his batting average to .313 and his on-base percentage to .386 as Lake Elsinore’s leadoff hitter. In his first at-bat, he worked a 2-2 count against Wilson without swinging at a pitch, and then flicked his wrists on a fastball on the outside corner for a double down the right field line. His second at-bat against Wilson, Urias worked a seven-pitch at bat before reaching for a major league-caliber changeup for a groundout. Naturally a second baseman, he played shortstop Wednesday and showed good arm strength from deep in the hole and converted all his fielding chances cleanly.
• Javier Guerra, the Padres No. 1 prospect, got the day off. The 20-year old shortstop is hitting just .194 with 60 strikeouts in 43 games.
• Angels righthander Alex Klonowski started throwing a knuckleball earlier this month at the suggestion of Angels special assistant Marcel Lachemann and has been dominant since. He followed Wilson with five scoreless innings with three hits allowed and five strikeouts for Inland Empire. Since adding the knuckleball to his repertoire, Klonowski is 2-0, 1.59 with 16 strikeouts in 17 innings. Multiple times he followed a 65-67 mph knuckleball with an 88-91 mph fastball, while mixing in an 81 mph changeup, to keep opposing hitters wildly off balance.
• Taylor Ward, the Angels No. 1 prospect, went 0-for-3 but had two quality at-bats against Lamet. He worked counts and fouled off a few strike threes before flying out in each case, just getting under it both times. Although his .231 batting average and recent 3-for-25 skid might not show it, Ward is back to working deep counts and making better-quality contact than he was earlier in the season, when he got overly aggressive and was often caught lunging and making soft contact. His fielding continues to be excellent, throwing out two attempted basestealers at second base Wednesday with 70-grade arm strength and precision accuracy. He has now thrown out 20 of 53 (37.7 percent) basestealers this season.
• Shortstops David Fletcher and Roberto Baldoquin, the Angels’ No. 11 and No. 12 prospects, are both at the Angels’ extended spring training complex in Tempe, Ariz. rehabbing from injuries. Fletcher has been out since May 2 with left wrist tendinitis. Baldoquin is on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring for the second time this season and has played only five of 47 games. Neither has progressed to playing rehab games in extended spring training and have no timetable for their return to Inland Empire.