Brady Aiken Shakes Off Rough Captains Home Opener Start
BY JUSTIN LADA
Hope springs eternal on Opening Day and the special feel of that first home game. It was no different for the Lake County Captains on Saturday for their home opener after dealing with weather issues like the rest of the midwest and east coast. The weather cooperated as the Captains unveiled their brand new scoreboard and pretty much a brand new roster to their fans in Eastlake.
20 players are making their Captains and Midwest League debut this year including 2015 first round pick Brady Aiken. The 20 year old left hander made his first start of 2017 Saturday and looked like he wasn't going to stick around long for the festivities. Aiken, excited for a fresh start in 2017 putting rehabbing and draft day drama behind him, had to quickly put his first inning of the 2017 behind him, too.
Aiken allowed a leadoff "double" to Dayton's T.J. Friedl, but, CF Gabriel Mejia misjudged a tough, low line drive and it went over his head for a double.
Jose Siri singled in Friedly but Aiken nearly had him picked off trying to steal. Instead of getting the out, the throw from first baseman Emmanuel Tapia went into left field.
Aiken didn't help himself by walking two in the inning.
He did get a strikeout and then a groundball double play, both via the curveball.
He also had a Friedl picked off of first base in the second inning, but the throw once again was offline to second base and allowed a run to score.
Heading into the third inning though, Aiken's fastball command improved and he wound up fanning four in the third and fourth inning around a walk and two singles.
Despite the rocky command in the first, bad lucky defensively and a high pitch count that forced Captains Manager Larry Day to get a reliever warming up, Aiken was able to regroup and push forward in his first start.
Along with fastball command, velocity has also been something talked about with regards to Aiken's comeback from Tommy John. Unofficial readings had his fastball in the 92-93 range at times.
Aiken never let any of the defensive miscues visibly upset him on the field. He came back and kept throwing the ball and would occasionally reach back for something extra on that fastball. He didn't command it as well as he might have liked when he did that,but the zip was there, which had to be a comforting thought for him and the Indians, obviously. Dayton made some hard contact on those harder fastballs because a few of them caught too much of the plate or some were up and away.
Another encouraging note for Aiken was his ability to get better and get settled in after the early struggles. He was much more efficient and appeared to get stronger after the first inning. He didn't appear to be wearing down.
Aiken's fastball also was a bit straight at times but the times he was able to paint the corners with it, it didn't matter thanks to his returning velocity.
The majority of Aiken's strikeouts came on his curveball which had good depth and plenty of bite. The most encouraging part about his breaking ball is his ability to locate it. Pitchers who can locate secondary pitches at Low-A tend to have a lot of success because most hitters at the level haven't seen enough quality secondary offerings to pick them up well let alone hit it well. It showed with Aiken's strikeouts and he's comfortable throwing that pitch.
Some comments from Captains Manager Larry Day on Aiken's outing:
"I saw a pitcher making first start of his full season career. Good to see him get acclimated with that mound, great crowd at Classic Park that came out tonight...I'm sure he probably would prefer it had been smooth sailing from the beginning. But in the way it's great that it's not. That's what the minor leagues are for. It forces these guys to deal with this situations. We all know the type of talent he is. That's going to come out. We're going to have a chance to see that a lot this summer. These are terrific growth opportunities to Brady and all these guys."
Despite having that rough start in the first inning, the Dragons only managed one run, which says a lot about Aiken's ability to pitch through trouble, get some swings and misses and induce weak contact, thanks to his curveball in a lot of cases for that.
"He threw a lot of pitches and the (first) inning had a lot of length to it. But he left it with only one run on the board. No big deal. If you're to skill the adversity from 1-10 to give up a run in the first inning, it might be a three? It wasn't that big of a deal."
Offensively, the Captains didn't have much to celebrate on the new scoreboard during the home opener. Erlin Cerda hit the ball hard a few times but only had one hit to show for it, including an RBI. Dragon's starting pitcher Wennington Romero is a name to remember. He threw six innings and didn't allow a run until the fifth inning. The 19 year old left hander struck out nine and had command of his fastball and a really good breaking ball and changeup. Day was impressed in what was also the Reds prospect's first full season start. He struck out 47 and walked nine in 49 ⅔ innings last year between the Arizona Rookie League and the Pioneer League.
It wasn't a good night for the Captains bullpen, either. It looked like Justin Garza, returning from 2015 Tommy John surgery, was "piggybacking" Aiken and allowed four runs in three innings.
Ryder Ryan, a 21 year old 30th round 2016 draft pick allowed a run in two innings. Ryan is an interesting story because he was a backup catcher and first baseman at UNC and is "new" to pitching. He will be an interesting story to follow.
The Captains are at home through the 12th of April with a 1:30 game vs. Dayton Sunday and 6:30 starts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as they host Great Lakes
POSTED 04/09/2017 00:39