Climbing the ranks in the Minor Leagues is a difficult task, but it only took Daniel Tillo two starts at a new level to turn in a gem. In addition to working in new environs, the Royals' 18th-ranked prospect only had half of his arsenal.Tillo yielded two hits and a
Climbing the ranks in the Minor Leagues is a difficult task, but it only took Daniel Tillo two starts at a new level to turn in a gem. In addition to working in new environs, the Royals' 18th-ranked prospect only had half of his arsenal.
Tillo yielded two hits and a walk over six scoreless innings Saturday night as Class A Advanced Wilmington shut down Salem, 6-1, at Frawley Stadium. He took a no-hitter into his final frame, struck out seven and plunked three batters in his first shutout start of the season.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound left-hander didn't have a great feel for any of his pitches and ultimately junked his off-speed offerings -- a changeup and a slider. But he survived on the command of his four-seamer, which he equates to a cutter, and his sinking two-seamer.
"It's kind of what I have right now," Tillo said. "But just had to grind it out in the bullpen. Once I get those two [off-speed] pitches, hopefully, I'll be even better than where I was tonight. They're just feel pitches, especially the changeup. And I've got to trust it. I haven't been trusting as much as I used to."
The 21-year-old southpaw made his first Carolina League start last week against the Red Sox and allowed four runs on six hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. Right away, he noticed a more advanced hitting approach than he saw in the Class A South Atlantic League.
"It just gets better and I've got to get better with the competition," Tillo said. "I've just got to get more locked in, pretty much. The hitters are going to get better throughout the Minor Leagues as you move up and I've got to do the same thing. I've just got to continue to get better and hopefully keep moving up through the system."
Opening the season with Lexington, the 2017 third-rounder posted a 4.35 ERA in seven starts, with 31 strikeouts and a .233 opponents' batting average. He did not depart the Legends on the highest note, having pitched to a 6.26 ERA over his last four starts. But he did show flashes of his potential.
Gameday box score
The difficult stretch began after his best professional outing, in which he carried a no-no into the seventh against Hagerstown on April 20. The Iowa Western Community College product also recorded his first double-digit strikeout total during a one-hit performance against Columbia on May 3.
On Saturday night, Tillo set down the side in the first but plunked Jerry Downs and 12th-ranked Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec in succession to start the second. He retired the next three batters before issuing a four-pitch leadoff walk to Chris Madera in the third. The Iowa native wriggled out of trouble again with a double-play ball from Santiago Espinal, beginning a streak of six consecutive outs.
"The hit batters, one was an off-speed [pitch that] kind of got away from me," he said. "The other two were fastballs, which also got away from me a little bit. Just yanking it a little bit, and I just tried getting more locked in and trying to get a ground ball, and I got that one time and that was huge. My defense played really well tonight."
Again, the first batter of the inning proved to be a challenge for Tillo in the fifth as he hit Tyler Hill with a 1-0 fastball. He escaped unscathed again, using a forceout and two strikeouts to get out of the frame. A leadoff hitter registered Salem's first hit in the sixth as Espinal bounced a single to the right side, and 10th-ranked Red Sox prospect C.J. Chatham blooped a single to right two batters later. Tillo got out of the jam with a punchout and a groundout, exiting after throwing 47 of 76 pitches for strikes.
Carter Hope pitched the final three innings for the Blue Rocks and allowed a run on three hits while fanning four to earn his first Carolina League save.
Kort Peterson slugged a two-run homer, his fifth, for Wilmington and D.J. Burt doubled on a three-hit night that raised his average to .315.
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4.