On June 5th, 2015, the Blue Jays drafted Max Pentecost with the 11th overall pick out of Kennesaw State University. On July 2nd, he officially signed and a couple days later was in uniform in the Gulf Coast League on July 7th. A week later, he was in Vancouver and everything appeared to be in order. However, on August 7th - a month to the day from his first professional game - he played his last game for Vancouver and was shutdown with a shoulder injury. Multiple surgeries and 21 months later, that remains the last we've heard from Pentecost on the field.
Until last night, as he was at long last activated from the disabled list and assigned to Lansing to make his belated full season debut. And he certainly didn't disappoint. In the bottom of the first, Pentecost got a first pitch fastball from Kyle Twomey (a 2015 draft pick from the University of Southern California), and lined it the other way for a hard RBI single.
He came back up with one out in the 3rd inning, and took a first pitch curveball out of the zone. With a 1-0 count, he got another Twomey fastball and hammered it to right-centre field for an opposite field, solo home run. So an hour into his debut, he had seen three pitches, had two hits, five total bases and two RBI.
Twomey did finally get Pentecost the third time around, a ground ball pulled to short on a 1-1 count. But Pentecost's party was not over. Facing reliever Scott Effross in what would be his final at-bat of the day in the 7th, Pentecost fell behind 1-2 but squared up a breaking ball and lined it into left field, just grazing the shortstop's glove, for another solid single. That leaves his season line at a robust .750/.750/1.500 (so if one wants to be pessimistic, there's really nowhere to go but down).
Pentecost was at DH last night, and I'm not sure when he'll be back behind the plate, or if the cumulative injuries have derailed that. For now, that Pentecost is healthy and back in game action is a big positive in its own right. But in a longer term, a significant part of his value was tied to the catcher position, as at the time of the 2014 draft, his bat was considered good for the position, but not a carrying tool independently.
Last night also featured a trio of notable hurlers taking the mound, so let's take a look at those as well as one outing from Wednesday:
Francisco Rios made his debut for Dunedin after lighting up the Midwest League for a month, and it was reasonably successful if up and down. He worked deep into the game, turning over the Clearwater lineup four times on an efficient 92 pitches. In the first couple innings, his fastball was 92-93, and he touched higher with some 94s and 95s on the Dunedin pitchf/x system. He mixed in all of his four pitches, getting swings and misses on his mid-80s slider, lows-80s change-up and curveball. In all, he got 12 swinging strikes, though weighted towards the first time through, when he also walked both batters. So he was more effectively wild early (understandable given it was his debut), and settled in pretty well. On the negative side, he did allow 9 hits, running the gamut from a couple infield singles to three hard doubles.
In Lansing, Jon Harris turned in another solid and efficient, if unspectacular start in which he pitched 5 innings and faced just two batters over the minimum. He didn't pile up strikeouts, but mostly kept the ball on the ground (both hits were on the ground) and even when he didn't only gave up perhaps one or two even reasonably well struck balls. After buzzsawing through the first three innings, he lost the zone in the 5th, walking the first two batters and going 3-0 to the third before he was bailed out by a fly ball with the runner was caught trying to advance, and then a first pitch swing and another fly ball to end the inning. His fastball velocity was really good, ranging from 91-95 MPH on the Lansing gun, though that likely means he actually topped out at 93-94.
Harris was followed by Angel Perdomo, who after some struggles starting is now working as a piggybacker. He turned in a dominant 4 innings to close out the game. It took him an inning to settle in, as he gave up a walk a hard line drive in the 6th, but three last three innings were all three-up-three-down, with 7 strikeouts (all swinging). He piled up 13 swinging strikes on just 63 pitches, most of that on his fastball at 93-94 though a few on change-ups. His breaking ball was less consistent, but he didn't really need it tonight.
Lastly, Shane Dawson had a pretty lackluster start Wednesday, He only gave up one run in 5 innings, thanks to a couple double plays and a couple pickoffs, but was not very sharp and constantly dealing with baserunners. That's what happend when a pitcher is constantly working behind, and Dawson fell behind 16 of 22 batters. On the positive side, he did induce a lot of weak contact on the ground.