Ryan Rolison took an exhaustive coast-to-coast trek to the California League. When he arrived, he introduced himself to his new teammates in impressive fashion.
Colorado's No. 5 prospect allowed two hits and struck out seven over six scoreless innings, outdueling second-ranked San Diego counterpart MacKenzie Gore in the process, but Class A Advanced Lancaster fell to Lake Elsinore, 3-1, in 10 frames Tuesday.
Gameday box score
Rolison got the bump to the JetHawks after dominating his first three outings of the year in the South Atlantic League. On Tuesday, he showed why. Last year's first-round selection for the Rockies struck out the first two batters he faced and worked around a two-out single to shallow right by No. 25 Padres prospect Gabriel Arias in the second.
"I think it was just being able to throw three pitches in the strike zone," Rolison said. "I think I did a good job with keeping them guessing at the plate, staying out of obvious fastball situations and just really attacking with my stuff and challenging them. Obviously, I let my defense work behind me and just tried to get quick outs and quick innings."
Beginning with the final out of that frame, Rolison retired 11 straight until a bunt single through the left side by Taylor Kohlwey in the sixth.
"Once you get that momentum and get in a rhythm, the first two innings you have confidence going, you have confidence in all your pitches to be able to throw them in the strike zone," the Ole Miss product said. "It's huge to get that kind of momentum and kind of roll through some innings once you have that momentum going."
Rolison responded with the final two outs of his night including a swinging strikeout of 27th-ranked Esteury Ruiz. The left-hander finished up having thrown 79 pitches -- 59 for strikes -- against a lineup of more advanced bats than he'd seen before in his pro career.
"I would say these guys have got a better approach at the plate, a better eye," he said. "You're not able to get away with as many mistakes at this level. Really, it just comes down to me challenging with my stuff and just pitching my game, not worrying about the other things, attacking and going right at them."
Rolison's new home ballpark is widely regarded as the best for hitters in the Minor Leagues, and his next scheduled outing would come on Sunday back in Lancaster. But the Tennessee native isn't worried about his surroundings, one of many hitters' parks in the Rockies organization all the way up to Coors Field.
"We try to live by the attitude of our altitude," he said. "At the end of the day, the cards are dealt to both teams. You're having to pitch in elevation. You're having to pitch in winds blowing out. It's just part of the game. You can't really think about it that way. It's just that if you make good pitches, you'll get outs. There might be a hit here and there that might be not be hits in other parks, but really it's just trusting in yourself and your pitches."
The 22nd overall pick last June as a Draft-eligible sophomore posted eye-catching numbers with Class A Asheville in his first three starts this year -- at another offense-heavy park, McCormick Field. The 21-year-old went 2-1 with a 0.61 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two walks in 14 2/3 innings. Opponents batted .157 against him and he sported a 0.68 WHIP before heading to the Cal League.
Rolison was originally told Friday that he'd be making his Lancaster debut Monday, but rain in the Carolinas forced his promotion to be pushed back a day.
2019 MiLB include
"I threw a bullpen on Saturday (in Asheville)," he explained. "Caught a flight at 1 o'clock, flew into Charlotte, had a two-hour layover, then flew into Phoenix, had a three-hour layover, and then flew into Burbank and Uber-ed an hour, hour-and-a-half to Lancaster to stay at the hotel. Easter Sunday, I woke up in the hotel, had some breakfast and kind of just relaxed at the hotel all day, and then we were [in Lake Elsinore] last night.
"It was a pretty busy last few days, but I got some good rest last night and the night before, and I was ready to go tonight."
Gore was nearly as good for the Storm on Tuesday night. Baseball's No. 14 overall prospect matched Rolison's six innings, allowing a run on three hits with one walk with nine strikeouts. Gore dropped his early season ERA to 1.23, but didn't factor into the decision.
"It was a fun matchup for sure," Rolison said. "MacKenzie looked really good on the other side, and it was just one of those pitchers' duels that you want to go out there and put another zero up and see if he can match you. It was really fun going back and forth in a competitive environment. We came out on the down side of it, but it was a great effort by both teams."
Arias connected on a two-run walk-off homer in the 10th to win the game for Lake Elsinore.