MOOSIC - Using pinpoint control and some California cool, Branden Pinder made a quick impression on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
It could be lasting.
Pinder pitched a very solid seventh inning Friday in his Triple-A debut, retiring all three batters he faced. His strong showing promised even more relief for a RailRiders bullpen that’s been lights-out lately.
The 25-year-old relief specialist didn’t get much chance to show more of his stuff Saturday at PNC Field, as he remained in the bullpen during a 9-2 drubbing the RailRiders were taking from Durham in the eighth inning - which threatened to snap Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s six-game winning streak.
RailRiders manager Dave Miley was tossed out when his request for an appeal of a check-swing strike wasn’t fulfilled in the seventh inning.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Shane Greene struggled mightily through a rough night, surrendering six runs over three innings. Jose Pirela homered for the RailRiders’ first run and Hazleton native Russ Canzler doubled home the second in a game that quickly became mop-up work for their bullpen.
But the RailRiders saw plenty from Pinder the first time he took the mound for them.
Pinder allowed one hit and recorded his first Triple-A strikeout while helping the RailRiders protect a 3-2 lead during the seventh inning Friday. And there wasn’t much scientific design to his strategy.
“Get strike one,” Pinder said was his sole goal.
He more than met it. Pinder not only threw strike one, he threw strike two, strike three, strike four - all the way up to seven. That’s right, Pinder threw seven pitches during his Friday outing, and all seven went for strikes.
“I didn’t really want to mess around with many hitters,” said Pinder, who grew up in Corona, California. “Get strike one, that’s the main thing.”
If he was nervous making his first appearance in the International League, Pinder didn’t show it.
“Just go out there, it’s still a mound, a ball in your hand and a hitter at the plate,” Pinder said. “Same game. It’s a different level, but it really doesn’t change.”
Down at Double-A Trenton, Pinder really changed his fortunes this season.
He wowed the Eastern League with a 0.53 ERA over 16 innings through 13 games for the Thunder while recording 18 strikeouts against just two walks.
That came after Pinder struggled somewhat in Double-A last season, while carrying a 6.29 ERA and going 1-1 with 22 strikeouts and 18 walks after being promoted to Trenton in 2013. He started last season pitching for Tampa and had a 3.49 ERA and a 1-2 record in 21 games there.
This year, Pinder also had a 2-0 record with four saves for Trenton before joining the RailRiders on Friday, although he said he wasn’t necessarily the team’s closer.
“It was whoever was available that night,” Pinder said.
The hard-throwing right-hander certainly had a first night to remember in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
He recorded a flyout, surrendered a single to Ray Olmedo - who was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double - and wrapped up his first night with the RailRiders with an inning-ending strikeout.
“Gave up the hit, it didn’t really bug me,” Pinder said.
Pinder came right back to fan Durham leadoff man Hak-Je Lee to finish the seventh, protecting a 3-2 lead and earning his first Triple-A hold in a game the RailRiders won by that score.
“Got his feet wet and we’ll go from there,” Miley said Friday.
That the RailRiders entrusted Pinder in such a critical situation speaks volumes about the confidence the Yankees organization has in the kid, and about the composure Pinder carries with him to an already-outstanding RailRiders relief corps.
“We’ve got some power in the pen,” RailRiders catcher Austin Romine said. “It’s pretty fun.”
And if first impressions are any indication, it’s about to get even more potent for the RailRiders.
“Just go out there and do what I can do,” Pinder said are his intentions, “go after hitters and cut down the walks.”