Texas Rangers pitching prospects Joe Palumbo and Tyler Phillips each pitched last night — Palumbo for high-A Down East, Phillips for low-A Hickory — and they each had their best outings of the season, probably two of the best outings any of the Rangers minor league pitchers have had this year.
For Palumbo, it was his fifth start for Down East this season — he missed most of 2017 and the first half of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and his first three starts were rehab assignments with the AZL Rangers. After a strong first outing for the Wood Ducks, Palumbo had a rougher go of it his next three outings, striking out 12 and walking 3 in 11.2 IP, but allowing 16 hits (including 3 home runs) and 14 runs.
Palumbo put that behind him yesterday, however, as he threw 5 shutout innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing just three baserunners, on 2 hits and a HBP. Out of 74 pitches, Palumbo got 14 swinging strikes, with only 6 of the 18 batters he faced putting the ball in play. Palumbo has been limited to around 75 pitches his last three starts, which is why he only went five, but this sort of game illustrates why folks think he could be starting games in Arlington in 2019.
As for Phillips, who is just 20, he was, if anything, even more impressive. Pitching for the low-A Crawdads, Phillips went 7 shutout innings, striking out a whopping 13 batters while not walking anyone, and allowing just 6 hits. Perhaps most impressive was how he responded to getting into trouble in the 7th inning. After starting off the inning giving up a single and a double, Phillips fanned the next three batters he faced swinging, and for the game he had 28 swinging strikes out of 90 pitches.
His effort has continued what has been a breakout 2018 campaign. Phillips gave up 5 runs in 3.2 IP while walking 2 in his first outing of the season — since then, he has not walked more than 1 batter in any game, and has allowed more than three earned runs only two other times. Over his last 14 games, he has 83 Ks against 9 walks and just 1 home run allowed in 84.1 IP, allowing a 2.35 ERA and a .233/.254/.292 slash line. And he’s finishing the season strong — over his last six games, he’s struck out 46 against 4 walks in 35 IP, with a 1.54 ERA and a .195/.225/.241 slash line allowed.
Oh, and as the icing on the cake, Hans Crouse pitching in the Northwest League All Star Game, retired all three hitters he faced, two of them via strike out, and hit 100 mph on the stadium gun.