Visalia left-hander Tyler Skaggs
entered the season as one of the D-backs' most prized pitching prospects. The Rawhide asked the 19-year-old to lead their staff and Skaggs is ready to answer that call.
Skaggs worked out in the offseason at Pepperdine University, close to his Southern California home, with Major Leaguers Ryan Braun, Gabe Kapler and Trevor Plouffe. He worked on his core and legs to get his velocity up and put on 20 pounds by the beginning of Spring Training.
Skaggs arrived early at D-backs' camp and said he felt good.
"The Cactus League was fun this year," he said. "I got to pitch in two big league games."
He struck out six and pitched six scoreless innings in Arizona.
The young hurler is developing a changeup to go with his fastball and highly rated curveball.
"The changeup is really what I'm working on," he said. "I was shaky at the beginning of the season with some walks [11 over 15 1/3 innings]. The changeup has helped a lot with getting hitters off-balance."
He's had to make some adjustments since he was traded last summer from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to Arizona. Skaggs was the player to be named later in the Dan Haren trade and moved from one Midwest League team (Cedar Rapids) to another (South Bend) in the middle of the season.
The move had good and bad aspects for Skaggs.
"It's good to come to this organization. I love the D-backs," he said. "I love how they run their system and I love all the kids on the team.
"It was hard coming from the Angels, my favorite team. I made a lot of good friends there. It was a different feeling coming to a team where you don't know anybody."
The best part of the trade was the nearly four-week break Skaggs had bookended around the trade. He had two weeks off in Cedar Rapids and two weeks off in South Bend before seeing action for the Silver Hawks. The trade was officially completed Aug. 7.
The results speak volumes. July 23 was his last start with the Kernels, and he had three relief appearances over six games. He struggled a bit toward the end of his Angels career, allowing 10 runs over 25 1/3 innings.
Skaggs made four starts in South Bend and allowed three runs over 16 innings, fanning seven over five scoreless frames in his final start on Sept. 3.
"I felt like the time off really helped my arm," he said. "My velocity was up and it helped me refine my mechanics. Knowing that I just got traded and I've already faced all those teams [in the Midwest League] made me calm down."
Skaggs thrives in baseball thanks to the support provided by his family, led by his mom.
"I talk with her every day," he said. "She comes to all my starts now that we're in the California League."
Stockton's finest: Stockton Ports right-hander Ryan Doolittle won the Pitcher of the Week award as the most successful Ports starter in the young season. He began the year with a 2-0 record and a spotless ERA. Doolittle has allowed five hits over 10 innings, striking out 11 without walking a batter. He's made one start and one relief appearance, although he went five innings and fanned seven in his bullpen stint on April 15 to secure an extra-inning win over Modesto. A 2007 28th-round Draft pick, he was named Northwest League Pitcher of the Week last July.
Blowout weekend: Visalia was on both ends of blowout games over the weekend: a 16-0 loss to San Jose on Friday and a 17-7 romp over Stockton on Sunday. The Rawhide totaled seven hits in their shutout loss at San Jose. The Giants collected 23 hits as each batter in the lineup had at least one. IF Nick Liles led the way with a 5-for-5 day, while 3B Chris Dominguez provided the power with two home runs. Both were bombs, including a fifth-inning shot that cleared the batter's eye in center field. Dominguez finished with four RBIs. Two days later, the Rawhide beat up on the Ports, scoring seven times in the fourth inning to expand their lead. Visalia got homers from 2B David Nick, 1B Matt Davidson, RF Kyle Greene and 3B Bobby Borchering. Visalia wore out the Stockton bullpen, going through five relievers after chasing starter Fabian Williamson after 1 1/3 innings.
Want more runs?: Speaking of high-scoring games, Bakersfield and Inland Empire slugged it out Saturday night in a 24-19 contest that ended with a 66ers' win. It was the longest nine-inning game in California League history, clocking in at 4 hours, 55 minutes. The 66ers scored 10 runs in the sixth to take a 17-16 lead. Bakersfield had poured on the runs early, scoring in each of the first five innings, including a six-run fifth. The runs kept coming until the 66ers added five in the top of the ninth. The teams combined for 49 hits and seven errors and Inland Empire leadoff hitter Jean Segura went 5-for-8 with three runs scored. Relievers Jose Perez of Inland Empire and Andrew Bowman of Bakersfield were the only pitchers to escape unscathed.