At just 18 years old and barely a year after collecting an $11 million signing bonus, Adrian Morejon looks quite comfortable in his first month of professional baseball in the United States.
The organizational-record signing bonus the Padres handed over is a long way from paying real dividends, but the early returns have been impressive.
In his fifth career start, Morejon matched career highs with six strikeouts over six innings as Class A Short Season Tri-City blanked Eugene, 5-0, on Monday night at PK Park to snap a three-game losing streak. He allowed four hits and didn't issue a walk.
Gameday box score
The No. 3 Padres prospect won his second consecutive start and lowered his ERA by nearly a run to 2.88. Through his first five outings, Morejon has struck out 23 and walked one in 25 innings. This type of performance is what excited Padres director of player development Sam Geaney, who first saw MLB.com's No. 88 overall prospect in 2014 when he was the Athletics' coordinator of international scouting.
"You scout a lot of players when you're at those international tournaments, but I remember thinking it wouldn't shock me if he ended up being one of the top 16-year-olds on the market if and when he got out [of Cuba]," Geaneyrecently told MiLB.com . "When we signed him, I had a new job and obviously didn't know what had happened in between. But he's here now, and we're all excited for the growth he has shown and continues to show with us."
Video: Adrian Morejon gets his sixth 'K' for the Dust Devils
The native of Havana pitched around a fielding error by second baseman Kelvin Melean in the second inning and a one-out double by Rafael Narea in the third. Morejon gave up a single to Austin Filiere in the fourth and pitched a clean fifth before running into trouble during his final frame.
The southpaw surrendered consecutive singles to Zach Davis and Jhonny Bethencourt to open the inning and they moved into scoring position on a passed ball with one out. Morejon responded with a pair of strikeouts to end the first scoreless outing of his career having thrown 54 of 84 pitches for strikes.
Working out of trouble has been an early staple for the 6-foot, 165-pound hurler, who has held opposing batters to a .159 average in 44 at-bats with runners on base. That figure drops to .118 when there are two outs.
"He's been very impressive for a multitude of reasons," Geaney said. "This being his first year in the U.S., there is a lot of new stuff to him, but he's handling it well. ... I was able to see one of his handful of starts, and he was featuring quality stuff across the board, all over the plate. He's mostly throwing in the low-90s, but he'll pop 96 or 97 [mph] in there. The curve and the change have their times when they look above-average. Really across the board, we're very pleased."
Luis Asuncion's bases-loaded triple highlighted a four-run first for Tri-City. The 20-year-old finished with a career-high four RBIs.
Andres Munoz, Austin Smith and Jordan Guerrero combined to allow one hit without a walk and six strikeouts over the final three frames to complete the Dust Devils' second shutout of the season.