Tanner Robles was looking forward to spending the Fourth of July holiday with his family in Dayton, Ohio, where he was scheduled to pitch for the Class A Dragons on Thursday.
Only problem was the Reds organization decided to bump the 23-year-old left-handed starter up to Class A Advanced Bakersfield instead. But even then, his family, who were en route from their home in Utah to the Midwest, made sure he wouldn't make his first journey to the California League alone.
"It's pretty funny, my mom had to actually spend the night in Dallas," Robles said.
He made sure his debut was worth the trip.
Robles allowed just three hits and two walks over six shutout innings Thursday, but Bakersfield fell to Stockton, 6-3. After going 5-5 with a 4.45 ERA through 16 starts for Dayton, Thursday's feat marked the first time this season that the southpaw did not surrender a run in any given start. The last time he remained spotless in a start was Aug. 13, 2010 for Rookie-level Billings.
As good as his final line looked, the Reds farmhand admitted there were some nerves at play, and it showed in his walk to Ryan Pineda to kick off the contest before he was able to settle down -- both mentally and physically -- thanks to the help of his teammates.
"Before every start, you've got a little bit of jitters," he said."But I have all my buddies here from [Dayton] last year, and they played some great defense behind me."
Robles' biggest problems came in the third inning when Dusty Robinson reached on a forceout and then stole second base with one down. After striking out Josh Whitaker, the 6-foot-4 hurler tossed a wild pitch that brought Robinson 90 feet away from the Ports' first run. But Robles rebounded from his own error, striking out A.J. Kirby-Jones to end the threat.
The left-hander allowed a leadoff double to Max Stassi in the fourth before retiring the final nine Ports he faced in the outing. Robles, who employs a basic fastball-curveball-changeup mix on the mound, believed his improved results over time Thursday came from an improved confidence in his arsenal as the night wore on.
"Honestly, it was all just good command of my pitches," he said. "I started really only throwing a fastball and curveball, but by the end, I was able to throw all three of them for strikes. That and keeping the ball low the whole night really helped."
With his first Cal League start under his belt, the former Oregon State pitcher admitted that he was happy to be back on the nation's West coast, not only to be a little closer to his Utah family, but also for meteorological reasons.
"We were just in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and it was like 93 degrees and humid there," Robles said. "It's a dry heat here. It's kind of nice."
Whitaker launched a grand slam to center field off Blaze reliever Brooks Pinckard in the ninth to push the visiting Ports into the lead.
Reds' top prospect Billy Hamilton finished 3-for-5 with a double and three runs scored. The shortstop added two stolen bases to give him 103 on the year, equaling his career high established last season with Dayton.