Fort Wayne considers Jose De Paula to be a relief pitcher, but he made a serious bid for a starter role with seven no-hit innings Thursday.
In only his second start of the season, De Paula struck out seven and allowed two walks while improving his ERA to 1.19. But the 20-year-old right-handed Padres prospect ended up without a decision as the TinCaps had to rally to a 6-5 victory over the Dayton Dragons.
"He's pretty much a reliever, what we call a 'piggy-back' guy," TinCaps pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "Every fourth day he'll come in and throw around 55 pitches.
"He was able to locate his fastball tonight," he added. "His breaking ball was pretty nasty, especially against the left-handed hitters. He used his breaking ball to get some strikeouts and he located his changeup."
Even without the victory, De Paula impressed his Class A squad.
"He has a good idea of what he's doing out there," Patrick said. "He commands the strike zone and mixes up his pitches. He uses his fastball any time in the count. He needs to work on being more consistent with his changeup, but he had that working for him tonight."
De Paula is 3-1 with 21 strikeouts and only five walks through 22 2/3 innings. He hasn't allowed a hit in his last 9 1/3 innings.
"With his age, he'll be here for the rest of the year and he'll be in the rotation," Patrick said. "He's pretty advanced for his age. It depends on how he finishes up here. Who knows what could happen for him next year?"
Patrick says De Paula, a native of the Dominican Republic, projects as a reliever at the Major League level. But that doesn't mean he should be pigeonholed as a specialist. Left-handers are batting only .160 against him this season while righties are hitting .170.
"He's tough on lefties, righties, anyone," Patrick added. "With the way he throws his breaking ball, the sharp downward action, he's buckled some right-handed hitters as well."
De Paula had some elbow issues last season and was limited to 9 2/3 innings in the regular season, but he sported a 4-3 record and a 3.57 ERA at the Arizona League in 2008.
Hayden Beard replaced De Paula in the eighth inning and yielded a home run to Dayton's Josh Garton on his first pitch. The Australian native left after giving up four runs on four hits while recording only one out.
But even though De Paula had his no-hitter intact when he exited the game, the TinCaps stood by the decision to replace him.
"That's the name of the game," Patrick said. "We had our setup guy come in the eighth because De Paula got tired. (Beard) left it over the plate and the guy took it out of the ballpark. It's just one of those games where all his pitches were up."
Miles Mikolas (3-1) then yielded a run before retiring the side for Fort Wayne.
In the bottom of the eighth, the TinCaps' Jason Hagerty scored on one of Dayton's six errors and Jonathan Alia's two-RBI single gave the TinCaps a 6-5 lead.
Nick Schumacher closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning for his 14th save.