Josh Collmenter thought he was the victim of a prank when Visalia Rawhide pitching coach Erik Sabel told him he'd been promoted to Triple-A Reno. He was so skeptical of the notion that he'd be skipping Double-A that he demanded proof.
"I thought he was joking," Collmenter said. "I've had him [as a coach] for three seasons, so we have a good rapport and we joke around. I was pretty shocked, but he showed me the flight itinerary and everything."
One night after joining the Reno Aces, Collmenter turned in a debut that made the unorthodox promotion look brilliant. He struck out eight over seven shutout innings in a 7-2 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers. The 24-year-old right-hander yielded only three hits and did not walk a batter.
"I felt good," Collmenter said. "I just tried to treat it like a normal game, make good pitches. It was nice to see a familiar face behind the dish in Sean Coughlin. He's caught me before and we always seem to be on the same page."
Collmenter threw 55 of 89 pitches for strikes. He gave up two singles in the second inning, then didn't allow another baserunner Brad Nelson doubled in the seventh. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Michigan native stuck mainly with a fastball-changeup combination.
His curveball, he said, "has been hit or miss. It's starting to come around."
While the results were just as impressive as they had been in the Class A Advanced California League, Collmenter recognized a significant difference in the level of competition at Triple-A.
"It seems like one time through the order, you throw a pitch that works the first at-bat, [but] the second time they're looking for it," he said. "I threw a couple pitches I thought I'd get swings on [but didn't]. They make a lot of adjustments to you and you have to make adjustments, also, as the game goes on."
Collmenter is making a major adjustment by skipping the Double-A Southern League. He was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA in three starts at Visalia, striking out 21 batters over 15 innings. So far, he's making a seamless transition to the upper reaches of the Minor Leagues. Part of his success has been an approach based on keeping things simple.
"I was going in trying to make quality pitches," Collmenter said, "trying to throw strikes and not walk anybody."
Collmenter was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 15th round in 2007 and he's been working his way through the system. He said he was told in Spring Training that he would start the season back in Visalia because of a logjam of pitchers at the top of the organization, not because he wasn't ready for tougher competition.