When the Yankees traded for Miguel Sulbaran, they saw a young southpaw with the potential to be a strong starter. And that's exactly what the New York organization has gotten out of him so far.
Sulbaran spun seven scoreless frames for Class A Advanced Tampa before Clearwater rallied in the ninth to take it, 6-5. The 20-year-old held the Threshers to three hits while tying a season high with eight strikeouts and without issuing a walk.
"It was a nicely executed ballgame. He was very good from start to finish, able to locate fastball from both sides of the plate, did a good job keeping the ball in on both left-handers and right-handers," Tampa pitching coach Danny Borrell said. "Anytime you go through an outing, whether it's one inning or seven, without giving up a run, you're making some pretty good pitches."
Sulbaran began the game with three perfect frames before giving up a two-out single in the fourth to Everett Williams. And though he allowed four baserunners, none of them reached second against the the Yankees starter.
Posting goose eggs has been a trend of late for the Venezuela native, who has held Florida State League foes to two runs over his past seven starts.
"He's put together a nice little string of outings. He made a big adjustment to pitch down in the zone," the coach said. "Anytime you pitch down in the zone, you take away a lot of forums. You take away doubles, you take away triples, you take away home runs. And even if you do allow a hit, you still have that double play in order."
The southpaw was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent in 2011, and then two seasons later, was traded to the Twins for Major League catcher Drew Butera. After starting this season with Class A Cedar Rapids, Sulbaran was on the move again, this time to the Yankees in exchange for Major League infielder Eduardo Nunez.
After spending time in extended spring training to lengthen out his innings, Sulbaran is 1-1 with a 2.36 ERA over 13 games -- 11 starts -- with Tampa, and his stats continue to improve as he gets more comfortable with the Yankees.
"I'm sure it was hard for him to go into a new organization, not only have to make new friends and meet new coaches, but win ballgames," Borrell said. "It's just an adjustment, but he's a great kid, very lively… fitting in just fine.
"It's pretty amazing how when you put on a baseball uniform, it's all the same. Once you're on the field, everyone speaks the same language."
Tampa's starter got run support from Dante Bichette Jr., Angelo Gumbs and Wes Wilson, with the former extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Three of the Yankees' five runs were scored against a rehabbing Cy Young Award winner.
"We faced Cliff Lee, so [Sulbaran] got to see how a Major Leaguer pitches," Borrell said. "These guys, they know outside of executing one pitch at a time, there's not much they control. Obviously they respect seeing a veteran like Lee out there, but it's just about them when they're on the mound."
The Phillies ace allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four over four frames in his second rehab game with the Threshers.
After Sulbaran left the mound, Ramon Benjamin gave up four runs -- three earned -- on four hits over 1 1/3 innings, but it was Alex Smith (4-4) who gave up the decisive last two runs and took the loss.