Since joining the RailRiders little more than a week ago, pitcher Tyler Webb has been providing shots of instant relief.
The latest came during Friday’s 10-2 drubbing by Pawtucket, when Webb showed he’s intent on continuing his rapid rise through the New York Yankees farm system.
The righthander set down all four batters he faced, striking out the first three, against a Pawtucket team that set a franchise record with its 10th straight win by rolling the RailRiders on Friday.
“Probably one of the brightest spots,” RailRiders manager Dave Miley called Webb after an otherwise dark game.
The light may only be starting to shine for Webb.
His 11 saves, all recorded at the lower levels, lead the Yankees minor league system this season. He is working in his third level of the organization after opening the 2014 season with Class A Tampa.
Nobody’s saying he’s ready to replace David Robertson as the closer in New York.
Especially after Webb was greeted to Triple-A with a two-run home run by Charlotte’s red-hot slugger Andy Wilkins, who seems to be hitting homers about every other day lately.
But Webb, who was promoted to the RailRiders July 16 and celebrated his 24th birthday in Triple-A last Sunday, recovered from that shaky RailRiders debut quickly. He’s worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in two outings since his RailRiders opener last week - an encouraging sign for a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen that’s been beleaguered by callup-ups and injuries all season.
“He gave up a couple runs to Wilkins, probably the hottest hitter in baseball,” Miley said. “This was his (Webb’s) third time out for us. The last two have been real good.”
That’s hardly surprising, since Webb is now in the third half of a dominant season.
He saved four games for Tampa, and was hardly overwhelmed when he was promoted to Double-A Trenton - where Webb saved seven games in 10 opportunities. He hasn’t blown a save in over a month, and with the RailRiders needing pitching help, it made perfect sense to give Webb a taste of Triple-A.
Evidently, he likes it.
Little more than a year removed from being a 10th-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2013, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Webb made a quick impression on the RailRiders with his poise and pinpoint control - and most importantly didn’t lose focus while taking the mound in a game that was out of control Friday.
That concentration may seem natural for a kid trying to prove he belongs at a higher professional level.
But the most impressive part of Webb’s game is his uncanny ability to rack up strikeouts. He’s now fanned five batters over his last 3 1/3 innings of Triple-A ball, after punching out 17 batters in 13 innings at Tampa and becoming an Eastern League All-Star in a short stint in Double-A with 51 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings. What’s more, he’s issued just 17 walks combined in the three levels he’s played at this season, and right now, International League batters are hitting just .167 against Webb.
They don’t know him yet. But if Webb keeps this up, the Yankees certainly will.
There’s something about seeing the RailRiders at PNC Field on Friday nights that turns Pawtucket’s Mookie Betts into a superhero.
The dynamic 21-year-old prospect of Boston Red Sox tortured RailRiders pitching during Friday night’s 10-2 Pawtucket victory, going 3 for 3 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. The RailRiders couldn’t keep Betts off base all night, as he also drew a walk.
Sound familiar? It should.
Betts was also a big gun the last time Pawtucket came to PNC Field to start a series on a Friday night. He went 3 for 5 in a June 20 game and drilled a two-run single with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to beat the RailRiders, 3-2. Interestingly, Pawtucket starter Anthony Renaudo - one of the top pitchers in the International League - worked in both those Friday night games and allowed the RailRiders a combined total of seven hits and two runs over 13 innings.
Who’s on the mound?
The RailRiders pitching situation is in such a flux, they’ve had to list TBA under their projected starting pitchers for two of the final three games against Pawtucket.
That’s not a bit of gamesmanship with a high-flying Pawtucket team, rather it’s because the RailRiders really didn’t know who they’d send out to the hill until gameday.
A big part of that is the recent rash of moves by the big league club.
The Yankees selected pitcher Chris Leroux from the RailRiders roster Wednesday, and in a corresponding move, designated starting pitcher Bruce Billings for assignment the same day. When Bilings cleared waivers, the Yankees just outrighted him to the RailRiders on Friday.
He had 72 hours to report back to Triple A, but fortunately for the RailRiders, Billings showed up in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in time to start Saturday night’s game.
That takes care of some of the uncertainty and Bryan Mitchell is scheduled to throw for the RailRiders today. The RailRiders then received more good news when starter Jeremy Bleich was activated from the disabled list Saturday. He’ll likely fill the other TBA spot and pitch against Pawtucket on Monday.