Stolmy Pimentel came to the Pirates organization this off-season in the Joel Hanrahan trade with lots of question marks. Not long ago, he was a highly regarded pitching prospect. Then the Double-A Eastern League happened, with Pimentel posting a 9.12 and 4.59 ERA in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Now on his third tour of the league with Altoona, Pimentel is pitching a lot better, and on Thursday night had has third consecutive good start to begin the season. Since I haven’t had a chance to catch Pimentel live yet, below is breakdown of his Thursday start.
My typical disclaimer before getting started: Since I’m relying on video, I don’t have my typical vantage from behind home plate and I’m without the benefit of a radar gun. Pimentel throws three pitches, and they are pretty easy to identify, however. According to reports from this game, his fastball was hitting as high as 96, which has been common for him this year.
First inning: 1 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Pimentel give up his first earned run of the season in the inning, facing 7 batters and needing 25 pitches to retire the side. He was both unlucky and very fortunate to only give up a single run. He got ahead of the first batters Brian Goodwin and Jose Lozada, and he threw a pretty good 0-2 slider to Goodwin that he singled into right field. On a 1-2 pitch to Lozada, he put a fastball down the middle that Lozada ripped to right. Then he walked Anthony Rendon, but it could have been worse, as Pimentel threw a belt-high fastball to the top prospect that he ‘missed,’ fouling it away.
With the bases loaded, Pimentel got a big strikeout of Justin Bloxom, getting ahead with fastballs before throwing a change up in the dirt that Bloxum waved at. Then Destin Hood slowly chopped a good low fastball to shortstop Gift Ngoepe, who double-clutched and had to go to first instead of trying to turn-two. As a result, Goodwin scored, but Pimentel easily could have escaped unscathed. Sandy Leon hit a fastball to the warning track to end the inning on another fastball that caught a bit too much plate.
So, after loading the bases and missing on some pitches, Pimentel got a big strikeout and started making better pitches. In the inning, I counted four sliders and three change-ups, with the righty struggling to locate the former but getting Bloxom to strikeout on the change.
Second inning: 3 up, 3 down, 1 K
Pimentel picked up where he left off in the second inning, making quick work of the bottom of the Senator’s line-up. He threw only 7 pitches in the inning, 5 for strikes and struck out Josh Johnson looking on three pitches. The punch-out pitch was a very good tailing fastball on the inside corner.
Third inning: 1 BB, 1 K
Pimentel got Goodwin to line-out, setting down 7 Senators in a row, before Lozada drew a walk. He then struck out the dangerous Rendon on a check-swing fastball high out of the zone that fooled the third baseman. Pimentel set Rendon up well, throwing a few sliders early in the count, and it looked like Rendon was expecting another breaking ball.
Fourth inning: 1 BB
At this point in the game, Pimentel looked quite comfortable, mixing in some sliders with his fastball (plus the occasional change-up). He didn’t let an error by second baseman Jarek Cunningham (on what should have been an inning ending double play) affect him, throwing five straight strikes to get two groundouts to end the inning (#8-hitter Johnson and pitcher Clay). In general, the bottom of the Senator’s line-up looked overmatched by Pimentel.
Fifth inning: 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K
Pimentel looked a bit fatigued in the fifth, demonstrated by some problems with his command. He made some very good pitches to Goodwin leading off, getting the Senators’ #2 prospect to fly out. Lozada followed with a bunt single, the first hit since the first inning, with Pimentel missing outside with several fastballs. Pimentel next walked Rendon in an 8-pitch at bat, which included a few good inside fastballs that were fouled off. Pimentel hung a slider to Bloxom, but 1B Andrew Lambo made a nice backhanded catch to secure the out. Next, Pimentel threw a wild pitch to advance the runners, but he redeemed himself by striking out Destin Hood on a bunch of sliders.
Summary: 5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 4 BB, 4 K. 87 pitches (56 strikes)
Overall, another very good start for Pimentel. He got into trouble in the 1st with the bases loaded and nobody out, and managed to only surrender one run. After that, he settled in nicely, not giving up another hit until the 5th (and that a bunt single), which is when the right-hander began to look a little tired about 75-80 pitches in, with his command faltering a bit. The walk total is a touch high, but he was able to work around them by limiting hard hit balls by the Senators and some timely strikeouts.
Watching this video of Pimentel makes it hard to believe this is the same guy who had a 9.12 ERA in the Eastern League in 2011 and a 4.59 ERA last season. In terms of his stuff, I was most impressed with the fastball (93-94 and as high as 96), which showed good arm-side run. He threw the pitch inside a lot, and that aggressiveness paid off by setting hitters up away or getting them to wave at breaking balls out of the zone.
Pimentel’s slider also looked pretty good, though the pitch was inconsistent at times during the outing. On several occasions, he ‘choked’ the pitch, spinning it into the dirt well before reaching the plate. He hung another here or there but was not punished by the Senators, and he managed to get a fair number of swings-and-misses with the pitch. It’s certainly not a ‘wipeout’ slider, but it has developed into a serviceable second pitch. Finally, I didn’t see too many change-ups but Pimentel did throw a few above average ones, including a strikeout of Justin Bloxom at a crucial point in the first inning. The change didn’t show a lot of movement and looked pretty straight, but that is fine if he locates it down in the zone consistently.
It’s great to see Pimentel making strides, but I’m curious to see how he fares as is season pitch count increases and hitters get warmed up. Also, he’s a prime candidate for a mid-season promotion to AAA, since he only has one option remaining, and I’ll be interested to see how that jump treats him. Regardless, right now Pimentel is helping to make the Hanrahan trade look good for the Pirates.