The scary thing for Florida State League hitters is that Taylor Guerrieri eventually will be able to throw more than three innings. And he's excited about it.
In his third start of the season and eighth since returning from Tommy John surgery, the Rays' No. 7 prospect threw three perfect innings for Class A Advanced Charlotte in a 3-1 loss to Brevard County. He struck out five of the nine batters he faced.
"I had good fastball command and my curve came back a little bit," Guerrieri said. "It was unfortunate we didn't get the win."
The 22 year-old right-hander, who said his arm feels 100 percent, left a July 15, 2013 start for Class A Bowling Green with elbow soreness and underwent surgery nine days later. He started five games last July in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and did not go longer than three innings in any of them.
After a year and a half of rehab, the 2011 first-round pick is close to being ready to get back on his path to the big leagues. According to MLB.com's scouting report, Guerrieri first must get back to full strength and rediscover his feel for pitching.
The South Carolina native, who boasts three above-average pitches in a fastball, changeup and curveball, seems well on his way to rediscovering that feel. He's yielded one earned run over 17 innings post-surgery and owns a 1.04 ERA this year, albeit in a small sample size.
Guerrieri said the Rays plan to use him in three or four more three-inning stints before extending him to five-inning appearances. If he does well in those starts, the team will consider stretching him even further.
"Yeah, I can't wait to be able to be able to go somewhere deeper in the game," Guerrieri said. "I understand it's a long process, but I'm definitely ready to get back to pitching some long innings."
Guerrieri left a scoreless game, but Brevard County scored three times in the fourth against reliever Eduar Quinonez, who retired two batters. Kyle McKenzie followed and threw 3 1/3 shutout innings, striking out two and walking two while allowing two hits.
Jorge Ortega (4-4) pitched his league-leading third complete game for the Manatees, scattering seven hits and striking out four without issuing a walk.
Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com.