The West Division-leading Indianapolis Indians dropped a 4-2 decision to the Rochester Red Wings Tuesday evening at Rochester’s Frontier Field. In this game, right-hander Kyle McPherson made his second Triple-A start for the Indians. It was McPherson’s 11th start of the season. He missed the first two months of the season with shoulder right-shoulder inflammation.
Indianapolis is 74-50; Rochester, Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, is 63-61.
McPherson, a 14th-round pick of the Pirates in 2007, was solid Tuesday. He pitched 5.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned), striking out six, and walking two. He dropped to 0-1 as he allowed six hits. Three of those hits, however, failed to leave the infield. McPherson’s fastball sat at 91-94, including 94 in the fifth inning. Overall, McPherson said he was pleased with the outing.
“I felt it went pretty well,” McPherson said. “(Catcher Tony) Sanchez and me were trying to stay on the same game plan for a while and mix it up as best we could. We really wanted to stick with the strengths tonight. I used the fastball in and out, changed eye levels, and used the breaking ball to put them away if we had opportunities to. Another weapon to use would be the changeup during the second time through the lineup.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said he really likes what he sees after McPherson’s first two Triple-A starts.
“I liked the way he threw the ball. I really liked the command of his fastball,” Treanor said. “That’s what he has shown in his two starts for us. I thought he had a very good breaking ball tonight a couple of good changeups in there. We didn’t help him out the one inning and then he gave up the home run, but that was just a fastball that he left up. I liked what I saw the first outing and I liked what I saw tonight. He’s really established himself here in two outings. What some of the guys are lacking here is the fastball command. He has shown that he’s got that. He pitches in very well. He pitches off the plate. He wants to do that and it makes all his other pitches that much better.”
McPherson demonstrated his effective fastball and secondary offerings (a breaking ball and a changeup) during a dominant first inning. On 15 pitches, he struck out two and induced a pop fly into foul territory. There are three videos below.
First batter, second baseman Eduardo Escobar:
He struck out Escobar swinging on five pitches. Escobar was one of the two players acquired by the Twins in the Francisco Liriano trade last month.
Second batter, designated hitter Brian Dinkelman:
Third batter, first baseman Chris Parmelee:
McPherson got Parmelee, one of the hottest hitters in the IL, to strike out looking on five pitches. Parmelee, the 2006 first-round pick of the Twins, had hit 11 home runs in his previous 17 games entering Tuesday’s action. The final pitch was an impressive breaking ball (76 mph) that froze Parmelee.
“He’s a dang good hitter and in that situation there we felt we could go for the strikeout,” McPherson said. “It didn’t feel like he was ready for that pitch and he was gearing up for the fastball. It worked out well.”
McPherson ran into some trouble after the first inning, but he continued to pound the strike zone. Rochester third baseman Ray Chang reached on a throwing error by Chase d’Arnaud. Chang then advanced to third on a hard-hit double by Rochester catcher Danny Lehmann. Chang scored on Dinkelman’s groundout.
Rochester’s Matt Carson hit a soaring solo home run to deep center field on an 0-1 pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning. That gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.
“They are definitely advanced hitters at this level,” McPherson said. “They tend to hit your mistakes a lot harder and a lot farther. I gave up the home run to center field there, and that was a missed spot on my part. That goes to show that if you miss your spot, especially over the heart of the plate, they will make you pay. You don’t get by with your mistakes more so than you do at the lower levels.”
McPherson finished the night with 97 pitches, 65 of which went for strikes. He now has a 1.59 ERA with 12 strikeouts and two walks over 11.1 innings in Triple-A. The 24-year-old said he is just looking to end the season with some positive experience.
“The shoulder feels good,” McPherson said. “It is definitely a pleasure to be out there healthy. Missing the two months to start the season was a drain on the body and going through rehab is something that no player wants to experience, but it’s good to be out there competing again.”
Treanor said he would like to see more consistency out of McPherson as the season winds down and playoff push intensifies.
“I think he needs more consistency out of his breaking ball and changeup to compliment his fastball,” Treanor said. “From what I have seen, he is heading in the right direction. I am not sure if there is a whole lot he needs to work on, just that consistency.”
Morris, a 6-foot-3 right-handed reliever, entered the game for Indianapolis in the bottom of the eighth inning. He breezed through his inning of work, throwing eight pitches (six strikes). He fastball hit 95 during the inning.
“I felt good,” Morris said. “It’s been a couple of days since my last outing, and we had the off-day yesterday, so I have a pretty fresh body. I felt good, and I got two ground balls and they made the plays. That’s all I can ask for.”
Treanor said Morris looked good in his inning of work.
“One of the things he’s got to work on is a little better fastball command and the consistency out of his breaking ball,” Treanor said. “He came in and had a real quick inning. If we had tied it up there (in the top of the ninth inning), he was going to go back out. I liked the way he threw the ball tonight.”
Morris, who was permanently moved to the bullpen this season, has had a strong year for the Indians. He has 66 strikeouts and a 2.67 ERA in just over 70 innings.
“When my name gets called, I am going out there to get outs, no matter what the situation is,” Morris said. “My job as a pitcher is to force weak contact and let my defense play behind me. That’s what I try to do every time.”
With recent struggles in the Pittsburgh bullpen, many are calling for Morris to be promoted. He said he is not letting that get to him. Morris maintains that his focus is on helping the Indians as they push toward the playoffs.
“My mindset hasn’t changed,” Morris said. “My job is to be the best pitcher I can be for the Indians. That’s the way we look at it everyday.”