Now about 20 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Washington's No. 11 prospect Sammy Solis feels like he's back to his old self -- a potentially fast-moving left-handed prospect with three quality pitches.
After returning to the Class A Advanced Carolina League with strong results this summer, Solis came back to the Arizona Fall League -- he also pitched there in 2011 -- and has been dominant thus far. In his second start Tuesday, the 25-year-old Mesa starter struck out eight Scottsdale hitters while allowing one earned run over four innings in a 7-4 victory.
Solis' eight strikeouts were the most he's had in any outing since punching out nine in an AFL game on Nov. 4, 2011. He limited the Scorpions to three hits and two walks, allowing his only run on a leadoff homer to Cory Vaughn in the fourth inning.
"Honestly, I felt like everything was working," Solis said. "I was throwing all of my pitches for strikes, and out here, that's what really matters."
Through two AFL outings, Solis (2-0) has a 1.17 ERA with 10 strikeouts and three walks over 7 2/3 innings. The left-hander said his feel for off-speed pitches has been better in the AFL than during the regular season, when he sported a 2-1 record with a 3.43 ERA in 13 appearances -- 12 starts -- with Potomac.
"I think I'm finally hitting my stride," the University of San Diego product said. "I didn't anticipate it being such a grind. Finding the feel on my pitches has been the tough part.
"The fastball came back pretty quick, but the off-speed, the curveball and the changeup, it's been really tough to find. At any level, if you can't throw those for strikes, you will get hit. "
Solis had all three offerings working Tuesday, even when Vaughn took him yard. The home run came on a 3-2 fastball after the Mets outfield prospect took a series of close off-speed pitches that didn't bother Solis despite the outcome.
"That guy, he just battled me to death," Solis said. "I threw him a couple of good pitches, ones that were working earlier, and he just spit on them. It was a changeup first and then a curveball later in the count. I threw a pitch outside, a fastball away, and I left it up a little and he recognized it, and well, hats off to him.
"He hit it hard. That's what hitters in this league do, they make mistakes count. I thought it was a good at-bat on my part, that I pitched him well, but he just got the better of me."
Solis bounced back to strike out Pirates prospect Alex Dickerson, Braves prospect Robby Hefflinger and Saturday's Bowman Hitting Challenge champion Peter O'Brien (Yankees) to end the frame and finish his day.
"Now I have a few innings under my belt from the regular season. My arm is starting to come back in shape and I'm finding some more feel," he said. "It was just a matter of time, and hopefully now I can keep it going."
Solis and the Mesa pitching staff got some help from the Solar Sox defense. Angels No. 13 prospect Zach Borenstein recorded two outfield assists for Solis and another in the top of the ninth with the Tigers' Corey Knebel on in relief.
At the plate, Cubs No. 2 prospect Albert Almora was 2-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run, while No. 2 Angels prospect C.J. Cron belted a three-run homer in the third.