Suffice to say, Sean Reid-Foley's second stint in Dunedin has started off better than his last one ended. As has been suggested over the last week, the pieces were aligning to suggest that at least a pitching promotion from Lansing to Dunedin was in order, and Reid-Foley was the one to first get the call, taking Justin Shafer's normal turn in the rotation Thursday night. He was promoted around the same time last year after a dominant run at Lansing, but didn't throw enough strikes, walking 24 in just 32.2 innings in 8 starts before going back down to Lansing.
Over 7 shutout innings, Reid-Foley struck out a career high 12 batters (11 swinging), allowing just 2 hits and 3 walks. He struck out six of the first nine batters the first time though the order, and finished by striking out the last five batters the third time through. Perhaps most impressively, of his 100 pitches on the evening, 23(!) were swinging strikes, or over 40% of the 56 times Clearwater batters swung the bat. The lion's share of those were off his fastball, which he simply blew by batters for the most the night, consistently 94-96 MPH on the Clearwater stadium gun (not sure if it's a pitchf/x system like in Dunedin). He also wracked up whiffs on his breaking balls, particularly his curveball.
There was one familiar control lapse. After opening the 3rd with back-to-back strikeouts on nine pitches, he lost the zone and issued all three walks consecutively, the first two on nine pitches and the last an extended seven pitch battle. He escaped unscathed but for an elevated pitch count with a weak groundout. The two hits allowed were solid line drives, but all the rest of contact allowed was weak, 7 ground balls, a popout, and a bunt.
Last night's gem runs Reid-Foley's streak of domination to five, a total of 35 innings over which he's allowed 5 runs on 17 hits, with 6 walks against 38 strikeouts after a pretty mediocre beginning to his year repeating Lansing. Hopefully, he continues on this trajectory moving forwards in Dunedin.
Reid-Foley wasn't the only one to put a decent start yesterday, as Jeremy Gabryszwski started for New Hampshire after a lengthy rain delay in Altoona and also went 7 successful innings. The only run he allowed was a first inning home run to Austin Meadows, who is doing to the Eastern League what Edwin Encarnacion is doing right now to the Major Leagues. So there's really no shame in that. Working with a 88-91 MPH fastball, he managed to strike out 8 batters in total, including 7 of the first 11 batters by the time there was one out in the 4th inning. Then he reverted back to more normal form, as 8 straight batters put the ball in play, and 12 of the last 13. As usual, he limited the free passes.
Francisco Rios went for Dunedin Wednesday and had a good, if shorter than usual, outing of only 5 innings. He worked in the 90-93 range, missing more bats than usual, but also with a worse contact profile than is typical which resulted in 5 hits and the two runs as three of those were strung together.
Finally, in the front end of a Wednesday doubleheader, Ryan Borucki has his finest 2016 outing, striking out 9 batters in 6 three hit innings. He piled up 19 swinging strikes, on an absurd 54% contact rate while pounding the zone with strikes and quality strikes (though a couple got away from him for 2 HBP, the latter of which sparked tension). His velocity was very good, in the 93-94 range with a couple readings on the stadium gun of 98 and 100, which were clearly hot but still likely in mid/high 90s. He was also very effective with his secondaries, both slider and change-up.
On the backend of the doubleheader, Patrick Murphy made his second start and was stretched out for 21 batters to mixed results. On the positive side, he maintained excellent velocity, touching 94-96 on the stadium gun at the end of the outing (again, probably a little hot), but he didn't miss many bats and ended the outing by giving up a hard double and home run among the 4 runs and 8 hits with which he was charged. That said, his contact profile was pretty good. It will be interesting to see if he joins the rotation as promotions occur, as he's otherwise been a multi-inning reliever with both starts in doubleheaders.