Whatever issues tormented Danny Hultzen in outings last year, his first with the Tacoma Rainiers, appear to be gone.
It might seem a little soon to tell, considering the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America has just four starts under his belt this season. But Hultzen has looked promising.
Hultzen earned his third win in allowing three hits and two runs in a 4-2 victory Friday against the Fresno Grizzlies in front of 2,977 at Cheney Stadium.
He has an earned-run average of 2.78, 25 strikeouts, six walks and his command is improved.
“I think last year, being a kid going through your first full year, that wears on your body,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “He went through that and I think what he went through last year will make him better in the long run.”
Also promising was the play of Stefen Romero, who made his first Triple-A appearance and, fittingly, tripled.
Romero sailed the ball over the head of Fresno center-fielder Gary Brown in his second at bat, and booked around the bases into third – a good sign considering it was his first game since suffering an oblique injury in spring training.
“My heart was beating a little fast,” said Romero, who was named the Mariners’ minor-league player of the year last season after batting .352 with 23 home runs and 101 RBI in Class-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
“Just being my first time out there, in Tacoma, just one step away from the big leagues. It was an awesome experience,” he said.
Hultzen was dinged early for a run in the top of the first inning, but Alex Liddi followed in the bottom half with a three-run home run and Eric Thames added some insurance with a solo-shot in the third
Thames has reached base safely in all 16 games – the only Pacific Coast League player to do so this year
But not even Thames could avoid an invite to Yusmeiro Petit’s K-party. The former Rainiers pitcher struck out every Tacoma batter at least once (three times in catcher Mike Zunino’s case), including a stretch of seven in a row.
That came after Petit struck out five consecutive batters earlier. Petit fanned 13 total, one away from tying Tim Lincecum’s team-record of 14 in 2007
The Rainier’s strikeout-fest didn’t matter with the way Hultzen was throwing. He locked in after the second inning and allowed just one hit – a single – from the third inning on.
Hultzen left after six with two earned runs, five strikeouts and two walks on 94 pitches and secured his third win after Logan Bawcom picked up the save in the ninth.
Rainiers outfielder Joe Dunigan underwent surgery Friday after pitch hit him in the face on Thursday. He is expected to be released from the hospital today. … Carlos Peguero missed Friday’s game because he was “under the weather,” Brown said. … Zunino is 0-for-20 at Cheney Stadium this year as is batting average has dropped to .217.
The Rainiers won’t see Cheney Stadium for another nine days as Andrew Carraway (1-1, 4.96 ERA) starts at 5:35 p.m. Saturday against Salt Lake’s Barrry Enright (1-1, 5.82 ERA) in the first of eight games away from home.