Eshelman has fun in the sun for Clearwater

Phillies right-hander strikes out career-high nine, retires 15 straight

Tom Eshelman has held opposing batters to a .109 average in his first three starts. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | April 20, 2016 1:05 AM

Tom Eshelman didn't know how to react when he was dealt by the Astros this past winter. But instead of worrying about it, he decided to go out and do what he does best -- pitch.

Philadelphia's No. 15 prospect continued to shine in his first tour of the Florida State League, striking out a career-high nine while allowing just one run and two hits without a walk over seven innings as Class A Advanced Clearwater defeated Daytona, 4-1, on Tuesday at Bright House Field.

Just three starts into his season, Eshelman (1-1) has been able to keep things in perspective when he's out on the mound.

"I'm just trying to do what I've done my whole baseball career," he said. "I want to throw strikes and stay with a simple plan and not make it too complicated. Just find a routine and stick with it and continue to do what I've done without resting on my laurels. I view this as a game instead of a job, so just go out and play and have fun with the guys around me."

Eshelman has held opposing Florida State League batters to a .109 average. He's allowed just 10 of the 68 hitters he's faced to reach safely. On Tuesday, the right-hander retired 15 in a row after he surrendered consecutive doubles to start the top of the third inning, collecting six of his nine strikeouts over his final five frames.

"I think me and [catcher Chace Numata] had a good game plan going in," Eshelman said. "In the first few innings, they seemed to be seeing my curveball well, so we stayed away from that and used the slider as my out pitch. I thought it worked well. We wanted to pound the zone, work in and out and get weak contact as much as possible. The game plan really worked for me."

The nine strikeouts were a career high for the 21-year-old, who was part of the trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston on Dec. 15. Having been drafted in the second round just six months earlier out of Cal State Fullerton, Eshelman wasn't sure what to think.

"It was a little weird to be a part of the deal, especially having been drafted only a few months earlier," he said. "I totally understand, though. The Astros were on the rise with a lot of talent and wanted to go in a different direction. There's no hard feelings. I'm still playing the game I love and playing it at a high level. No matter who you play for and no matter where you're at, you're still playing baseball for a living. So I figured I'd just have fun and get better each day playing the game I love." 

With a 0.95 ERA, the California native is certainly having fun with the Threshers. And the way Eshelman sees it, that's the whole point.

"Everyone wants to be here and come to the yard every day," he said. "It's a great atmosphere to be a part of and to be with a new organization is a lot of fun."

Scott Kingery -- Philadelphia's No. 11 prospect -- went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and a run scored for Clearwater. He also swiped his fourth base of the season.

Cincinnati's No. 6 prospect Keury Mella fell to 0-3 after he allowed two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings for Daytona.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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