When the TinCaps left Parkview Field earlier this month, they were in a difficult spot. They had lost 10 of 12 games and were struggling offensively, having scored three runs or fewer in eight of those 12 contests. At that point, they possessed the worst record in the Midwest League by several games and were heading on the road to face East Division-leading Lake County.
A week later, Fort Wayne is back and feeling much better. The TinCaps took four of the six games from the Captains, scoring 31 runs and drawing 42 walks despite four of those games only lasting seven innings because of Minor League Baseball procedures on doubleheaders. Fort Wayne no longer has the worst record in the league – at 9-18 it sits a half-game ahead of 8-18 Wisconsin – and it sent the Captains tumbling into third place in the East. Moreover, the team returns to a beautiful early summer day at Parkview Field, where tonight it will start a six-game series against the West Division-leading Beloit Sky Carp, the farm club for the Miami Marlins.
There is some bad news, however: the TinCaps are somewhat short-handed going into the set against the Sky Carp, with top 15 Padres prospects Joshua Mears and Nerwilian Cedeño on the injured list with wrist problems and right-handed pitcher Garrett Hawkins, another top 20 prospect, joining them before the game today. Hawkins had gotten off to a solid, if unspectacular, start to the season, going 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings across four starts. He had passable walk and strikeout numbers, but he won't pitch this week.
Instead, the TinCaps will send right-hander Keegan Collett, a reliever recently off the Development List, to start today. Collett, a 24-year-old former 35th-round pick is making his first start since 2019 and will likely only pitch a few innings as Fort Wayne turns this into a bullpen game. Collett has struggled this year, walking seven and giving up eight runs (three earned) in just 3 1/3 innings. He also has seven strikeouts so he's been missing some bats, but command has been a consistent issue throughout his career. He returned from the Development List on Friday and worked a scoreless inning against Lake County, easily the best of his four appearances this year, but he still walked a hitter. With his 25th birthday approaching, he's under some pressure to string together some good outings.
When Fort Wayne goes to its bullpen, it will have available 22-year-old righty Ruben Galindo, who has dominated at Low-A Lake Elsinore to start the season. Galindo has made eight appearances out of the 'pen at the lower level and has held opponents to a .167 batting average with 14 strikeouts and five walks over 12 innings, good for an 0.75 ERA. Galindo spent all of 2021 and 2022 at Low-A, as well, so this is a promotion a long time in the making and he's earned it this year. He hasn't pitched since May 6, so he should be available if needed today.
The Padres also sent a veteran reliever, 25-year-old right-hander Paul Brito, who spent the last seven years in the Marlins' system, to fill out the roster. Brito will be facing his former team this week after going 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA and giving up just one home run in 52 1/3 innings over 33 appearances with the Sky Carp last year. The Padres signed Brito as a free agent in December and he has yet to make an appearance with an affiliate this season.
Beloit will counter Collett and Fort Wayne's parade of relievers with another 24-year-old righty, Holt Jones, who has been shelled this year in his first High-A action after also struggling at Low-A last season. Jones is 6-foot-8 and his fastball touches 97 mph, but he hasn't been able to harness it as a pro, walking 24 in 30 1/3 innings at Low-A in 2022 and 12 in 10 1/3 frames this year. He has also surrendered 16 hits this season and has a 14.81 ERA. The TinCaps might have the perfect recipe to give him trouble as they are tied for second in the league in walks drawn with 130. Jakob Marsee is among the league leaders individually in that category and he leads off today after hitting his first home run of the season Sunday.
Ready to keep the long ball rolling with a new homestand! @marsee32 smashed his first blast of the year Sunday, and he leads off in today's starting lineup. pic.twitter.com/WrNfTLk9Ht— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) May 9, 2023
Fort Wayne has two of the league's leading home run hitters, Nathan Martorella and Marcos Castañon, in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. Both of them have clubbed five long balls this year and are tied for third on the circuit in homers. They also each have OPS figures better than .800.