Eitel perfect for six frames in outing

Visalia right-hander settles for one hit over seven in 14-2 rout

Derek Eitel had allowed 11 runs in his previous two starts. (Ken Weisenberger/MiLB.com)

By Danny Wild / MLB.com | May 23, 2011 5:16 PM

Visalia's Derek Eitel was standing on the mound, just waiting for a chance to keep his perfect game alive in the fifth inning. Over at third base, home plate umpire Ryan Goodman was getting into it with High Desert manager Jose Moreno.

"It was a little gamesmanship, I don't blame them," Eitel said. "We'd probably do the same thing."

Minutes earlier, the D-backs prospect had thrown a 2-2 curveball in the dirt to Dennis Raben, the Mavericks left fielder who dropped his bat and jogged to first base.

Eitel, fighting to keep his perfect game bid alive, spoke up.

"I said, 'Hey, that wasn't four balls,'" he said. "They asked the base umpire, and he said he had no idea."

The confusion led to an ejection, but Eitel came out on top. The right-hander flirted with perfection and showcased his breaking pitches in the best start of his career, allowing one hit over seven innings in Class A Advanced Visalia's 14-2 shellacking of High Desert at Recreation Ballpark.

Eitel (2-3) was perfect for six innings and took a no-hitter into the seventh, when former first-round pick Nick Franklin worked a leadoff walk and Vinnie Catricala roped a single to center.

The right-hander from Marshall, Ill., stopped the damage there, though, inducing a double-play grounder from Raben and getting Mario Martinez to fly to center to end the inning comfortably in line for a win.

"I got a standing ovation from the crowd, which was cool," Eitel said. "They appreciated it."

It was just the third time Eitel had thrown seven innings -- he also went that distance July 7 and July 18 last year for Class A Short-Season Missoula.

"Everything was working pretty good, I had a good bullpen before the game, and that doesn't always translate into the game, but it did today," Eitel said. "I had my sinker working, I was spotting it up good, my velocity was good on it. That's where it starts for me, having that good sinker.

"All my breaking pitches were good, my curve was as a good as it's been all year," he added. "I worked in a slider and was able to expand the zone when I got ahead, throw my breaking stuff for strikes and make a nasty pitch when I got the opportunity to."

He said he realized around the fifth -- the much-debated fifth -- that he had a special game going.

"I got through the first three or four innings pretty easy, and then I struck out the side in the fifth," he said. "That's when I started thinking, I might have a pretty good game today."

Eitel, who threw 85 pitches and lowered his ERA to 4.87, had at least one strikeout in each of the first four innings. It was a long fifth inning, though.

"I got up 0-2 on their No. 4 hitter (Raben). He's a good hitter, we keyed on him before the game," said Eitel. "He fouled off a few pitches, we wanted to get in on his hands, but he laid off a splitter and a curve in the dirt. I thought it was 2-2 when I threw it."

Goodman, the umpire, also had 2-2 on his counter, as did the scoreboard in the ballpark. Perez was standing on first base, though.

"They recounted the pitch sequence and they came up to being a full count," said Eitel, who knew a walk would have ruined his perfecto. "They argued with the manager for a good five or 10 minutes."

Eventually, Eitel spoke up on his own behalf.

"I told the ump, 'You guys have three balls, the official scorer has three, what is there to argue about, be confident with your call.'"

Eitel said the Mavericks dugout, already issued a warning, was really giving it to the umps.

"Their dugout was barking, and [Goodman] told the bench, 'One more word and I'll toss someone," Eitel said. "They kept going, so he walked over and said, 'Who wants to go?' And the first baseman, I think, he raises his hand, but the pitching coach said 'I'll go.'"

And so, the box score will show High Desert pitching coach Tom Dettore being ejected. Eitel fed off of the incident, setting down Raben swinging before striking out Martinez and Denny Almonte to end the frame.

"I don't think it rattled me," he said. "If anything, it dialed me in, kinda made me mad."

The Mavs broke up the perfect game legitimately, though, with two outs in the sixth when Anthony Phillips reached on throwing error by shortstop Chris Owings.

"I felt bad for him," Eitel said of his infielder. "But I'm sure he feels worse than I do. I got through that."

Switch-hitting third baseman Bobby Borchering had a big game for Visalia, finishing 4-for-5 with four extra-base hits and six RBIs, after plating five runs in a game May 18. Owings hit his fifth home run in the fourth while Matthew Davidson, the D-backs' first-round pick in 2009, and Adam Eaton finished with three hits apiece.

Eitel, the D-backs' 17th-round pick out of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology last year, signing June 16 as the first athlete to be drafted from the school. He holds school records in innings pitched (320 1/3) and wins (29), finished second in school history with 299 career strikeouts and was equally impressive on the gridiron, setting single-season records for passing yards (2,723), touchdowns (24) and passing efficiency (152.8) in his final football season.

The 23-year-old chose baseball and began his career last summer, when he appeared in 15 games between Missoula and Class A South Bend, splitting time in the rotation and bullpen with a 4-2 record and a 4.34 ERA. He'd allowed five runs or more in five of his last six starts and took a 5.79 ERA into Monday's outing.

"I've been talking to my mom and dad and brother after starts. I feel great, I feel like I'm making my pitches," he said. "In the last start, it was one of those when they hit one hard and the rest were infield singles, broken bats. I've had a lot of that this year. I think it evens out over the course of the year. I just need to really pin it together, and today was a good way to get back on track."

Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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