Denyi Reyes has dealt with some inconsistency this season, but when he's at his best, he has a deadly repertoire that ranks among the best. His stuff can be so good at times that Double-A Portland pitching coach Paul Abbott likened the stuff of the No. 19 Red Sox prospect to one of baseball's top arms.
"One of his strengths is his command and when he has command of his fastball, he's tough," Abbott said. "He's not overpowering by any means, but it's a lot like [Kyle] Hendricks with the Cubs. He can slow it down, mix his off-speed, stay back and pitch at the top of the zone and get swings and misses on his fastball."
On Friday, Reyes allowed three hits and struck out eight over six innings as the Sea Dogs blanked Altoona, 1-0, at Hadlock Field. It was his first win of the year and fourth start of at least six frames in the Eastern League.
Video: Portland's Reyes fans eighth
Reyes (1-6) had an up-and-down April, going 0-3 with a 6.87 ERA and 1.64 WHIP across 18 1/3 innings. It was a bumpy ride in his first month in Double-A, but things have turned around in his second. The native of the Dominican Republic has a 3.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 28 2/3 frames in May.
He's been particularly strong in his last two starts, yielding six hits and one earned run with 10 punchouts over 11 innings. Against the Curve, Reyes had his slider working, which Abbott said added something to build off. The 22-year-old also has been mixing in a cutter, which he used effectively Friday.
"Right from the start, coming in he was in complete control with basically his five-pitch mix: fastball; big, slow curveball; slider; good changeup; and a cutter," the pitching coach said. "He was in complete control of them the entire night. We're working hard on his slider, and it's starting to pay off and it showed today. He got four, five, six swings and misses with it."
Gameday box score
In his previous two starts, Reyes issued six walks over 9 2/3 frames, but he did not issue a free pass against Altoona. Overall, he threw 62 of 93 pitches for strikes and faced three batters over the minimum. Abbott said one of Reyes' strengths is his ability to consistently hit the zone, which he got back to doing well Friday.
"It's a mind-set, I think. New level, early in the season he gave up some hits that he maybe hadn't given up before and then you try to get a little too fine," Abbott said. "We talked about being aggressive in the zone and his strength, which is his command, and not nibble too much. ... He executed really well [Friday]."
Reyes was in control from the outset, setting down 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced. With one out in the fourth, Bligh Madris and Logan Hill ripped singles to give the Curve their first runner in scoring position. The 6-foot-4, 209-pounder got Hunter Owen to pop out to short before Jerrick Suiter fanned on six pitches.
Madris and Hill were the last two batters to reach against Reyes, who set down the final eight he faced to close out his first scoreless start since Sept. 2 with Class A Advanced Salem. Since surrendering four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings on May 14 against Hartford, he's knocked his ERA down from 6.00 to 4.79.
"His demeanor is another asset to him," Abbott said. "He doesn't get overexcited, he stays within the moment. He pitches with a positive outlook, regardless of the situation. He's doesn't show any stepping back in his makeup. He stays in complete control of his emotions. He's young, he still has to mature and log innings at this level. But the last two [starts] have been a big step forward for him. He's shown it a little bit early, but he just hasn't had the consistency that he had last year."
Jordan Weems pitched around a pair of walks in the ninth for his fourth save.
2019 MiLB include
Between Class A Greenville and Salem in 2018, Reyes went 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA with 145 strikeouts over 155 2/3 innings. His strong showing in the South Atlantic League earned him Most Outstanding Pitcher honors and a postseason All-Star nod. While Reyes might not be at that level this season, Abbott has liked the progression he's made in recent few weeks.
"It shows that he's coachable, it shows his pitching acumen and shows that there are things that he still needs to do," Abbott said of the adjustments Reyes has made. "He has to take it to the next level -- and he has that ability. Not that he's just going to throw hard, but he has to make his pitches better: 'I'm going to work on my craft and improve my tools.'"
Altoona starter James Marvel (4-5) allowed a run on two hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 frames. The only run he gave up came on a sacrifice fly by Jake Romanski in the fifth.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.