Carter Capps used to be the one catching the pitches. Now he's the one making them.
Capps cruised through four innings before giving up three runs in the fifth frame in his professional debut as Class A Clinton defeated Peoria, 9-5, on Monday. He allowed five hits and struck out six.
Selected by Seattle in the third round in June, Capps faced one over the minimum over his first four innings. He retired Arismendy Alcantara to open the frame, but Rafael Valdes singled to center, Micah Gibbs walked and Smaily Borges smacked a two-run double to left.
Jesus Morelli singled and a wild pitch allowed Borges to score. Capps ended on a positive note, though, fanning Taiwan Easterling to end his night.
"I just tried to do too much and I didn't pound the strike zone like I had been," Capps said.
The 21-year-old North Carolina native has taken an unusual path to pro ball. He started out as a catcher as North Lenoir High School and upon entering Mount Olive College, redshirted his freshman year in advance of becoming a pitcher for the Division II school.
"I threw pretty good behind the dish and I guess they [Mount Olive College coaches] wanted to see how it would work," Capps said. "I grew into a pitcher's body."
The 6-foot-5 right-hander became a star for the Trojans, going 24-1 in his sophomore and junior years. Capps struck out 129 batters while walking only 18 over 118 innings this season. Transitioning to the mound in college proved to be a crash course in pitching for Capps.
"I'm just getting my arm slot and learning things from scratch," he said. "I'm picking things up as I go."
While trying to work out a deal with Seattle, he pitched in the Cape Cod League, where he took the mound in the All-Star Game and impressed those in attendance with his fastball and slider. He also added a change-up to his repertoire in the hopes of becoming a more complete pitcher.
"It was good," Capps said of his Cape Cod experience. "I was facing really good players and hitters and finding out where I stood in the grand scheme of things."
Despite Monday's end result, Capps felt there were positives to take away from his debut.
"I was getting hitters out and I was able to control my fastball," he said. "I was able to throw my breaking ball for strikes. It's definitely what you dream of as a kid and I'm happy to get the opportunity."
Carlos Ramirez was 3-for-5, falling a triple shy of the cycle, and scored twice for the LumberKings. Mickey Wiswall homered and drove in three runs, while Stefen Romero reached base three times and scored twice.
Jessie Nava (2-4) was credited with the win for Clinton, allowing two runs on four hits over 2 1/3 innings. Ryan Kiel notched his first save with two perfect frames, fanning two.
Yohan Gonzalez fell to 5-5 for the Chiefs, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief.