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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Fans sit in the rain before Thursday night's game between the TinCaps and the West Michigan Whitecaps was canceled. 

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette A view of Parkview Field after the game between the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the West Michigan Whitecaps was canceled due to rain on Thursday 04.18.19  

Friday, April 19, 2019 1:00 am

Pitchers on point early for TinCaps

Lefty Cantillo next up in Game 1 today after Thursday's rainout

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

TinCaps vs. West Michigan

Where: Parkview Field

When: 5:05 p.m. (second game to start 30 minutes after end of first)

Pitchers: Game 1, Joey Cantillo (TinCaps) vs. TBA (Whitecaps); Game 2, Gabe Mosser (TinCaps) vs. TBA (Whitecaps)

TV: Xfinity 81

Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM

On opening day for the TinCaps, left-handed phenom Ryan Weathers took the mound and dazzled, tossing five shutout innings and striking out nine. 

Not all of the TinCaps' starting pitchers are MLB top 100 prospects like Weathers – in fact, none of the other five in the rotation rank among the Padres' 30 best prospects – but they have all met the standard Weathers set on opening night, turning in one terrific start after another. Through the season's first couple of weeks, Fort Wayne boasts the best rotation in the Midwest League.

The TinCaps' matchup with the West Michigan Whitecaps on Thursday was rained out, setting up a doubleheader tonight beginning at 5:05. Rain has been the only way to keep the Fort Wayne starting rotation from turning in a solid start so far this season.

Left-hander Joey Cantillo, who was scheduled to make his 2019 Parkview Field debut Thursday, will get the start in the first game today. He said it's been exciting to be part of such a talented rotation.

“It's been awesome,” Cantillo said. “Especially with the group of guys we've got, we're all close, everyone's friends. The six starters we have, everyone's really gone out there and thrown well. It's been fun to watch.”

Through 14 games, the TinCaps have not had what could really be considered a “poor” start. The rotation has averaged five innings per outing, an impressive figure for April when the pitchers aren't completely stretched out, and have a 1.65 ERA.

The underlying numbers suggest these first few weeks aren't a fluke. Where Fort Wayne's starters have really excelled is in missing bats and keeping walks to a bare minimum. In those 14 games, the rotation has struck out 83 and walked just 15, giving out barely one walk per outing. Avoiding walks has been an emphasis in the Padres' organization and that approach is bearing fruit with the TinCaps.

“For the organization, the ability to throw strikes is huge for us,” manager Anthony Contreras said. “To throw strike one, to attack hitters, to make them put the ball in play and use our good defense behind them is crucial.

“They take pride in throwing strikes, they're starters for a reason because they can consistently throw a high strike percentage up there.”

The starters' ability to pitch well into the middle innings has had an effect on games beyond just those innings they're on the mound. There haven't been any games this year where the Fort Wayne starter has been chased early and there have been several where that starter has pitched into the sixth or even the seventh.

That consistency has helped spare the bullpen from overuse and ensures the TinCaps have plenty of options late in games.

“As a coaching staff, it's encouraging to know the bullpen, knock on wood, is not going to be taxed,” Contreras said. “We're not going to burn through everybody. The starters dictate how the rest of the game's going to go. ... For these guys to go out there, do their job and give us five-plus innings is huge.”

Note: Fans with tickets to Thursday's game may redeem their tickets for any regular-season game this year. The tickets must be exchanged at the Parkview Field ticket office for those of equal or lesser value. There are no full or partial cash refunds. Tickets can be upgraded based on availability.

dsinn@jg.net