After it took Tampa six innings to scratch its first hit on the board in Wednesday's doubleheader opener, James Reeves began warming up. It had that familiar feel of a relief appearance. But for the first time in his professional career, that was not the case.
In his first Minor League start, the Yankees left-hander spun four perfect frames as Class A Advanced Tampa one-hit Jupiter, 3-1, in Game 2 of their doubleheader. Jorgan Cavanerio delivered six two-hit innings in the Hammerheads' 1-0 opening win at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"It was cool to get an opportunity to start. So it was a long haul for me," Reeves said. "It was cool for it to be the second game of a doubleheader. It almost felt like a relief appearance getting ready because you had a little less time than a usual starter. That was good to keep me in that same mind-set. I felt pretty good out there; I felt confident."
The Citadel product threw 51 pitches while cruising through the four innings and tied a career high with seven strikeouts. With catcher Francisco Diaz's assistance, Reeves (2-0) induced two flyouts and two groundouts and kept the Hammerheads from reaching first base.
"Command in general was probably the biggest X-factor today. ... I kept the fastball down and we built off that mostly," he said. "Instead of elevating to where ... it's kind of easy to get barrels [to the ball]. So I kept it down in the zone and felt pretty good about the way Diaz called the game and kept them off balance."
Around the third inning, the 22-year-old realized what was brewing, but since he is normally a reliever and had not exceeded three frames, he knew he wouldn't be taking a bid for history much further. Reeves pushed that and his pitch count out of his mind.
"I think the biggest key is just to focus on every single pitch you throw, whether or not you're starting or relieving," he said. "I felt pretty good about how things went. There was a few pitches I would take back if I had the option. But the game was managed pretty well. Francisco did a heck of a job behind the plate tonight, keeping the guys off balance. I figured if I stuck with him and executed the pitches he called, we were going to be OK."
The start marked Reeves' fourth straight outing without allowing a run and his third straight without a hit. The 2015 10th-round pick began the season with Class A Charleston and was promoted to Tampa on April 26. Across the two levels, Reeves has held opponents to six runs on seven hits and nine walks in 22 innings over 11 games.
On both teams, Reeves has played with Travis Hissong, who took over for him in the fifth. With the doubleheader, the plan was for the two relievers to split the seven-inning contest.
"Travis Hissong is one of my best friends and we've played together at every level so far since I got to pro ball. I think really highly of him, I think he's an incredible pitcher. So I felt pretty confident with him out there," Reeves said. "It was pretty cool to team up on a piggyback outing. I like watching him pitch, he's a fun guy to watch. He runs it up there and he's a competitor."
After dipping inside to do some conditioning, Reeves returned to the dugout to watch his friend. Hissong kept the bid going by retiring the first seven batters he faced. Then Justin Bohn broke up the perfect-game bid, the no-hitter and the shutout with one swing of the bat -- a home run with one out in the seventh.
"That's how it goes, it's a humbling game," Reeves said. "When I was out there, I threw a pitch here, a pitch there, it could've been a different story, so that's how the game goes. That's baseball. Sometimes you get it by them and sometimes they get it by you. That was about it. I thought he threw a good pitch."
New York's top prospect Jorge Mateo supported the performances on the hill by slugging a two-run homer, his fifth, in the third. Billy Fleming doubled in another run later in the frame.
"[Mateo's] a pretty special hitter and a really good player, so that was pretty cool to see him put us up. That's a pretty explosive offensive player for you in your lineup," Reeves said. "Our offense put a really good inning together and put some runs on the board and that was the ballgame."
Jupiter fell six outs shy of its own perfect-game bid earlier in the evening. After Edwin Jackson pitched a 1-2-3 first in a rehab assignment, Cavanerio -- who threw six hitless innings in the Hammerheads' no-no on May 7 -- kept the bid alive until Santiago Nessy led off the sixth with a single.
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.