Lugnuts' Champlin almost perfect

Blue Jays prospect allows one hit, strikes out 10 in first start

By Brandon Simes / Special to | June 8, 2013 8:00 PM ET

As premonitions go, Kramer Champlin's was about as outlandish as possible.

"I was joking around with my catcher, Seth [Conner], telling him 'You're going to call a perfect game today.' I said, 'You call it and I'll execute it,'" Champlin said.

Making his first start of the season, the Blue Jays prospect came within one out of making that pregame prediction come true. Champlin's bid for perfection ended when West Michigan's Devon Travis chopped a single that skipped past shortstop Emilio Guerrero in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Unfazed, Champlin struck out Jeff Holm looking to finish off a one-hitter as Class A Lansing completed an impressive doubleheader sweep with a 2-0 blanking of the Whitecaps at Fifth Third Ballpark.

"After looking out on the [videoboard], I wish it would have been scored differently, but I think it was a good call," Lugnuts manager John Tamargo said. "I talked to the official scorer here after the game. I've known him -- being in the league four years -- and he's a really good guy. I think he made the right decision."

"It could've gone either way," Champlin said. "It is what it is, you just deal with it and try to get the next guy out."

The 23-year-old right-hander recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in what was easily his longest outing as a pro.

"[My arm] feels all right. I definitely got a little tired toward the end, but adrenaline kicked in and carried me through it," said Champlin, who improved to 3-1. "I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow."

With a doubleheader Saturday and another scheduled for Sunday, Tamargo tabbed Champlin for his first start since his final outing of 2012.

"[Champlin] is like a sixth starter. He can throw short, long, he can close," said Tamargo, the 2012 Midwest League Manager of the Year. "He's very versatile. He can start a game or he can eat up four or five innings in the middle of the game."

Champlin, who was a starter before Toronto selected him in the 33rd round of the 2011 Draft, has come close to perfection before. In his first start for Western Nevada Junior College, he pitched a seven-inning no-hitter.

On Saturday night, left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. made a nice running catch of a shot off the bat of Zach Kirksey in the seventh to preserve the perfect game. By then, Champlin had been treated like any pitcher working on a no-hitter.

"To be honest, I like to just kind of stay by myself, stay quiet. But I noticed no one came up to me and gave me a high-five or told me to keep going or anything," he said. "I didn't look at the scoreboard once, I just knew about the fourth inning. Once the lineup turned over and I saw the leadoff man again, I noticed it."

Champlin pitched with the lead from the moment he took the mound after Smith led off the game with a single, stole second and scored on a base hit by Christian Lopes. Smith also provided a little insurance with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

West Michigan starter Logan Ehlers (0-3) took the loss after allowing a run and five hits in four innings.

Brandon Simes is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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