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Hawks' Sinnery dominates again
Undrafted righty takes no-hitter into seventh, reaches 95 mph
05/04/2013 12:13 AM ET
Brandon Sinnery pitched for two independent league teams last season.
Brandon Sinnery pitched for two independent league teams last season. (Univ. of Michigan)

When he graduated from the University of Michigan last summer, right-hander Brandon Sinnery thought he'd be headed for a Major League farm system.

Instead, he ended up in London, Ontario.

He attended tryouts in Michigan, Florida and Arizona. He pitched for one independent league team until it folded, then he pitched for another. One successful tryout led to another and brought him to D-backs' Spring Training. Now he's flourishing in the Midwest League with a fastball ticking up to 95 mph.

On Friday night, the former Wolverine continued his dominance, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning and striking out eight in Class A South Bend's 3-2 loss to Quad Cities.

The outing lowered Sinnery's ERA to 0.67 over 27 innings with the D-backs' Midwest League affiliate. In that time, he's struck out 24, walked five and allowed just one homer. The 23-year-old sinkerballer induced nine groundouts and one fly ball against the River Bandits and is holding opponents to a .183 batting average.

"Being in affiliated ball is great," Sinnery said. "It's always been a dream of mine to play pro ball. It's been a little bit of a ride and a journey getting here, but I'm just trying to make the most of it now."

The Worcester, Mass., native finished his Michigan career ranked eighth in school history with 260 innings pitched. He went 5-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 starts as a co-captain in 2012. His fastball sat in the high 80s range, generally peaking at 91, and he struck out 58 batters in 101 1/3 innings.

The performance didn't make him a hot Draft commodity, but Sinnery thought it was at least enough to get selected. A few big league scouts agreed, telling him they thought their respective teams would nab him in the later rounds.

Draft day came and went and Sinnery's name remained on the board. He sat by the phone for the next 10 days or so, but no one from a Major League front office called.

Nick Belmonte did. The co-founder of Indy Pro Showcase specializes in pairing unsigned ballplayers with independent league franchises. Belmonte thought he could get Sinnery signed and invited him to a showcase in Detroit.

At the tryout, Sinnery caught the eyes of folks from the London Rippers in the Frontier League. Hesitantly, the general studies major packed up and trekked over the border for his first pro experience.

"I wasn't sure going to Canada was going to help me," Sinnery said. "Scouts don't really go there to watch people play."

They definitely don't go anymore -- the Rippers folded a few weeks after Sinnery's arrival. In the aftermath, Belmonte found him a spot with the Lincoln Saltdogs in the American Association.

"That was a way better set-up," Sinnery said.

He went 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA and two complete games in seven starts with Lincoln. His velocity picked up -- "I have no idea where it came from," he said -- and the performance earned him a contract with Lincoln for 2013.

Before the season, Belmonte called Sinnery again, telling him he was running a tryout camp in Florida. The camp was for players hoping to make independent league teams and for current indy players hoping to latch on with an affiliated team.

A D-backs scout liked what he saw and asked Sinnery to attend a tryout in Arizona about a week and a half before Spring Training. Sinnery threw well enough there to earn a contract with a Major League organization.

Michigan pitching coach Steve Merriman had served in a similar capacity in Arizona's system until 2011, so many of the drills and routines Sinnery encountered in Spring Training were familiar.

The D-backs decided to test the 23-year-old in the Midwest League and, so far, he's passed. His fastball has ticked up to 95 mph and sits in the low 90s, and the addition of a curveball to his slider and changeup give him a developing four-pitch mix.

The 6-foot-4 hurler's frame allows him to throw downhill and induce ground balls, like he did Friday. He retired the first nine batters, hit one and walked another in the fourth but ended the inning but striking out Jesse Wierzbicki looking. In the fifth, he struck out the side, all swinging, and added two more punchouts in the sixth.

In the seventh, Wierzbicki reached on an error and scored an unearned run on Roberto Pena's single two batters later. Sinnery ended the frame by retiring Ryan Dineen on another groundout.

"[The competition] is really similar, actually," Sinnery said when asked to compare independent ball to the Midwest League. "I had my doubts after college about playing independent ball, but I went. And now that I've experienced both, I think they're pretty similar.

"Lots of those indy players are affiliated guys who got released and are still looking to play, trying to get signed again. The competition is pretty similar. The lifestyle is similar, too."

In South Bend, more eyes are on Sinnery. At 23, he's old for the Midwest League, but if his ERA remains under 1.00 much longer, he might not be long for the level. After begin passed over in the Draft, he's eager to continue proving himself in pro ball.

"It's definitely a shock," he said, "when you think you're good enough to get drafted or at least play at the next level and no one's willing to take that chance. It's definitely a motivator to show other teams that, show them what they missed out on."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner, This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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