Few starting pitchers can be expected to throw five no-hit innings in their Triple-A debut, but Roenis Elias is hardly a typical Triple-A first-timer.
"He was very effective. He changed speeds a lot and kept hitters off-balance. And he has that great curveball," Tacoma pitching coach Jaime Navarro said. "He did pretty much exactly what I expected him to do."
Elias, on a respite from the Mariners rotation to limit his Major League workload, struck out six and walked one over five hitless innings Wednesday night in the Rainiers' 4-2 road win over New Orleans.
"He was confident up there, just relaxed," Navarro said after Elias threw 62 pitches. "We worked on a couple things in the bullpen and he went after hitters. He's a very aggressive kid and he likes to compete."
The 26-year-old southpaw shot through the Minors from 2011-13, pitching for five teams without getting assigned to the Pacific Coast League. Opponents will be pleased to know his first PCL outing is the last one scheduled, with Elias set to return to the Mariners rotation on Monday in Philadelphia.
Neither the Mariners nor Elias (1-0) had any particular goals for his Triple-A cameo.
"Not really. They just wanted to make sure he got his work done," Navarro said. "A little bit, he wanted to work on his delivery and that's pretty much what we worked on. He did a good job on that with the work in the bullpen session, then he went out there and did a good job on the mound."
The Cuba native set down the first 10 Zephyrs before issuing a one-out walk to Enrique Hernandez in the fourth. Elias struck out Mark Canha to start a string of four more consecutive outs. He threw 44 pitches for strikes and got a confidence-boost out of the start.
"His confidence is way up there. Today, with this outing, he's feeling good and he's going to be able to just go up there and help [the Mariners] win ballgames," Navarro said. "This was a good thing for him. It keeps his confidence up there and keeps him believing in what he's capable of doing. I know it's just Triple-A, but he saw how he can dominate against these hitters."
The pitching coach believes Elias is poised to make a big difference during Seattle's run at a playoff berth.
"He's going to be successful back up there, the way he was throwing the ball so well," Navarro said. "If he can do that and keep his emotions together and not try to do too much, I'm telling you, he's going to be really something to watch."
Matt Palmer relieved Elias and gave up two runs on a walk and the only two hits Tacoma allowed. Lucas Luetge worked around a walk in the eighth and Todd Coffey pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his eighth save.
Ji-Man Choi was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for Tacoma, while Justin Bour hit his 15th PCL homer for New Orleans.