Back from the big leagues, Jon Duplantier looked right at home in Triple-A.
MLB.com's No. 72 overall prospect dazzled in a brief debut at the Minor Leagues' highest level, tossing three hitless innings before Reno fell to El Paso, 6-4, on Friday night at Greater Nevada Field.
Video: Aces' Duplantier gets fourth K
"It felt normal," Duplantier said after his first start of the year. "It felt good to get back into that routine the past couple days leading up to it and then today getting back on that -- 'OK at this time, I'm going to do this, the methodical part of being a starter.' I enjoy that a lot. It was just nice to kind of know: boom, boom, boom, all right, let's go shove. It just felt right. It felt normal."
Duplantier opened the night with his lone hiccup, walking leadoff man Esteban Quiroz. But the right-hander retired nine in a row, four via strikeouts and three on ground balls, to wrap up his short night. The D-backs' No. 2 prospect threw 37 pitches, 26 for strikes.
"I think fastball command was decent for me," he said. "Granted, there's always room for improvement but all in all, in terms of getting fastball location and hitting my spot, I think I did a pretty good job. When I did miss, I didn't really miss middle of the plate, meat of the plate too much. I think getting to my spots and erring in good places, that helped out a lot."
Gameday box score
Duplantier saw his first action this season with the big club, leaping over Triple-A in the process. Working out of Arizona's bullpen, the 24-year-old threw three scoreless innings on April 1 and another scoreless frame six days later. All told, he allowed two hits and two walks while striking out three over his pair of Major League outings. The shift to the bullpen wasn't unexpected but still carried its own set of challenges.
"I went through that a little bit during Spring Training this year," Duplantier said. "That was one of the things they kind of mentioned: 'Hey, it's probably going to be a while before you can start, at least in camp, so try to talk to these guys, guys that have maybe been starters and now they're relievers and hammer down what their routine is or maybe their lack of routine. See how they made the adjustment and see if you can do it.'
"I had a couple relief appearances in camp where afterwards they were asking me, 'How did it feel? How'd you feel coming out of the 'pen?' So it wasn't foreign when I got up there."
Last season, Duplantier made 14 appearances -- all starts -- with Double-A Jackson, missing a chunk of the season with right biceps tendinitis, but he was terrific in his limited action. The Rice product put up a 5-1 record and 2.69 ERA over 67 Southern League innings. He was optioned to Reno on Wednesday and immediately began getting back in the process of being a starter. With a taste of the big leagues fresh in his mind, the right-hander is hungry for more but knows a steady process matters most now that he's back in the rotation.
2019 MiLB include
"I'll get back into the routine of stretching it out, having days when I stretch it out and bring it in," Duplantier said. "Each day will have its own unique focus. That's kind of what I got away from when I was relieving because you don't necessarily have the liberty of, 'I'm not going to pitch today so I can go ahead and stretch it out and come in and fuzz it up.' Today can be my velocity or today let's come in and make sure the ball is spinning. Nope, when you're relieving, today I've got to get loose, make sure my ball is spinning right, make sure I've got my rhythm every day.
"I'm looking forward to having each day have its unique purpose, but once day five hits, start day, it's all about repetition, hitting spots and attacking hitters."
Reno took a 4-0 lead into the seventh, but El Paso tied it as Padres No. 20 prospect Austin Allen and Michael Gettys sandwiched RBI singles around a two-run double by Jose Pirela. The Chihuahuas grabbed the lead an inning later on Pirela's two-out, two-run single.
Dietrich Enns (1-0) gave up one hit over four innings of scoreless relief for the win and Luis Pedromo scattered three hits over the final two innings for his first save of the season.