Jenkins gives Jupiter the cold shoulder

In first start since surgery, Cards prospect hurls six hitless innings

Tyrell Jenkins went 4-4 with a 4.74 ERA over 10 starts for Class A Peoria last season. (Dennis Sievers/Peoria Chiefs)

By Kelsie Heneghan / | June 18, 2014 12:14 AM

Tyrell Jenkins was happy to be back on the mound. He was even happier after throwing six hitless innings.

Pitching for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery last August, the Cardinals' No. 15 prospect faced two batters over the minimum Tuesday night as Class A Advanced Palm Beach cruised to a 9-0 victory over visiting Jupiter.

"It feels great to be back. Just to say I went through what I went through, facing the adversity and getting through it -- it was a fun day," Jenkins said. "Defense was on, catcher was on. I had a few too many walks, but overall it was good."

In his first hitless outing lasting more than an inning, the 2010 first-round pick struck out three batters and walked two. Two Hammerheads reached base on errors by first baseman Luke Voit, but Jenkins (1-0) benefited from two double plays.

Last July 6, the 21-year-old right-hander faced one batter for Palm Beach before exiting with a shoulder strain. A month later, he underwent season-ending surgery. Since the procedure was related to throwing hard, Jenkins made a few strategic adjustments on the mound.

"This is probably the first time since I've played that I didn't overthrow or throw max potential. I just hit my strides and it worked out," he said. "If I can sit at 90, 93 and not have to overthrow every at-bat but know it's there when I need it, I can dial it up in those situations but not overwork my shoulder."

Without a pitch count or innings limit, the Texas native sat in the dugout, ready to pitch the seventh in an attempt to keep the no-hit bid alive. But the Cardinals were a little overzealous in padding the lead.

"I was trying not to let it bother me, I was just trying to stick to my plan and let my defense work. They just kept making plays behind me," Jenkins said. "[Then] they scored seven and I sat too long, so my manager went to the bullpen.

"Of course [I'm disappointed], but the fact that my team was scoring runs and getting hits is the important part. No pitcher wants the ball taken out of their hands, but I pitched a quality game."

While the 6-foot-4 hurler was not able to complete his bid, he did experience something else very memorable: pitching to rehabbing Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"It was fun to face him, just to have him in the box. I walked him his first at-bat, then I got him to ground out and fly out," Jenkins said. "It was fun to face a Major Leaguer, it was surreal. Hopefully, I can face a Major Leaguer again soon."

After Jenkins exited, he completed his postgame routine and returned to the dugout. And while he was able to be a part of the celebratory high-fives, he first watched the no-hit bid broken up with two outs in the top of the ninth on a bloop single by Marlins No. 2 prospect Colin Moran.

"It was tough to watch, but you can't say it wasn't in the back of your head the whole time. I'm proud of the defense and the bullpen, everyone did a good job," Jenkins said. "It was a great start, [though] I had [two] walks -- I hate having walks. For my next start, I hope to have seven no-hit innings."

Samuel Tuivailala struck out four over two innings before Corey Baker surrendered Jupiter's lone hit in the ninth.

Voit went 4-for-5 with two RBIs, while Breyvic Valera contributed three hits and also drove in two runs for the Cardinals.

Also returning from an injury, Jupiter's Adam Conley (0-1) allowed six runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over 5 1/3 frames. Miami's fifth-ranked prospect was 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in six starts for Triple-A New Orleans before going on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left elbow.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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