Hoffman blanks Rainiers in Triple-A debut

Rockies No. 5 prospect hurls six shutout innings in first Isotopes start

Jeff Hoffman is 3-1 with a 1.17 ERA in his last four starts dating back to last season. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

By Michael Leboff / MiLB.com | April 10, 2016 12:47 AM

Jeff Hoffman ran the gamut in his Triple-A debut, working out of a couple of jams and breezing through one inning on fewer pitches than he needed to warm up.

The Rockies' No. 5 prospect scattered five hits over six innings and struck out six on Saturday night as Albuquerque beat Tacoma, 2-0, at Cheney Stadium.

Hoffman (1-0) threw 55 of 87 pitches for strikes and walked three to win his third straight start dating to last year in the Eastern League.

After working around a walk in the first, the 23-year-old right-hander was able to wriggle out of a jam in the bottom of the second. With runners at second and third, he got Dario Pizzano to fly out to left field, then caught Daniel Robertson looking at a third strike.

The Isotopes gave their starter a lead in the fourth as Tim Smalling laid down a squeeze bunt to score Jordan Patterson.

Hoffman cruised through the fifth, needing only five pitches to retire Pizzano, Robertson and Mariners No. 8 prospect Boog Powell.

"That's always the goal, but I don't know if I've ever done that before [in pro ball]," he said. "I just pounded the two-seamer and got three ground-ball outs."

The Rainiers loaded the bases against Hoffman in the sixth as Stefen Romero and Ed Lucas singled and Rob Brantly drew a two-out walk. But MLB.com's No. 51 overall prospect retired Chris Taylor on a line drive to shortstop Rafael Ynoa to get back to the dugout unscathed.

"I proved all night that I could get out of jams," Hoffman said.

The Rockies acquired the 2014 first-round pick from the Blue Jays as part of the trade that saw Troy Tulowitzki go to Toronto.

"It was different from anything I've ever experienced," Hoffman said. "But it's an honor to be a part of a trade that involves a player like [Tulowitzki]."

Hoffman faced another Major League veteran in his Pacific Coast League debut as Tacoma starter James Paxton gave up a run on two hits and five walks while fanning three in four innings.

"Mostly, I try to focus on my own stuff," Hoffman said. "But going up against someone like [Paxton] lights a little fire under you."

Hoffman also said he's aware of the PCL's reputation as a hitter-friendly league but believes his style of pounding the lower half of the strike zone will translate well.

"I definitely make it a point to keep the ball down in the zone every start," he added. "Hopefully, that continues when I start in Reno next week."

The Albuquerque bullpen did its part in ensuring that Hoffman got his first Triple-A win. Carlos Estevez, Sam Moll and Gonzalez Germen combined for three scoreless innings, with German striking out two for his first save of the season.

Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More