In his first start of the Arizona Fall League season, Forrest Whitley picked up where he left off after dominating the circuit last year.
MLB.com's No. 17 overall prospect gave up one hit and struck out six over 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Peoria's 4-1 loss to Mesa on Saturday night at Sloan Park.
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old whiffed four of the first seven batters he faced -- highly ranked prospects Zack Short (Cubs No. 9), Isaac Paredes (Tigers No. 5), Brandon Marsh (Angels No. 2) and Greg Deichmann (A's No. 17).
"It felt good to come out with my best stuff," said Whitley, the 17th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. "If I go out with stuff like tonight, I can go against anybody. I have to get as consistent as possible."
Whitley, who walked two batters and plunked another, did not allow a hit until Indians catcher Gavin Collins slapped a single to left field leading off the fifth. He retired the next two batters -- finishing with a punchout of sixth-ranked Angels prospect Jahmai Jones -- before exiting, having thrown 46 of 83 pitches for strikes.
"I had a pitch count -- 85 -- and I knew I was near it toward the end," he said. "It felt good to get that first start out of the way. It's been 12, 13 days since my last game [Sept. 8] and ultimately, this will propel me into the next few outings."
The second-ranked Astros prospect was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock to begin the year. In eight appearances, he posted a 12.21 ERA before being sidelined with shoulder fatigue on May 29. He returned July 12 and made two rehab starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before being bumped up to Class A Advanced Fayetteville.
Whitley made six starts for Double-A Corpus Christi and rejoined Round Rock on Sept. 4. He finished 3-7 with a 7.99 ERA over 59 2/3 innings.
Offseason MiLB include
"Well, 2019 obviously did not go my way," he said. "Too many base on balls, too many long balls, being behind in the count. Walking 44 in 59 2/3 innings is a big step backward. I have to work on that this fall. I have to get the ball over the plate."
Last year in the AFL, Whitley was 1-2 with a 2.42 ERA in six starts, allowing seven earned runs over 26 innings. He struck out 36 and issued only seven walks.
Trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the seventh, Mesa scored four times off Padres right-hander Reiss Knehr (0-1), getting a two-run dinger from Paredes, to break open the game.
A's right-hander Jesus Zambrano (1-0) was flawless across 1 1/3 innings, fanning one, to pick up the win.