Buffo sparkles in debut for Dunedin

Blue Jays righty allows three hits over eight scoreless frames

Maverik Buffo retired the side in order in five of his eight innings in his first Florida State League start. (Allasyn Lieneck)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com Staff | July 10, 2018 12:42 AM

Maverik Buffo found out Friday he was getting called up to the Florida State League. He arrived in Dunedin the following day and was informed he would take the hill for the first time Monday.

The Toronto right-hander met with his new staff and immediately resumed the routine he had followed all season with Lansing. Buffo understood what had gotten him to this point and he wanted to stick to his script and prove he belonged.

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The 22-year-old appeared unflappable, scattering three hits and a walk over a career-high eight frames to pace Class A Advanced Dunedin to a 7-0 blanking of Clearwater at Dunedin Stadium. He struck out five.

"I felt really good. I just told myself, 'It's still 60 feet, 6 inches,' the same as it's been my whole career," he said. "So I went out there and told myself that I belong here and just went right at them."

"He warmed up real well, and then when he went out on the mound, it was really just sit back and watch," said Dunedin pitching coach Mark Riggins. "He commanded every pitch that he threw. He had lots of first-pitch strikes, kept the ball down and he worked inside. It was a phenomenal night for him."

Buffo posted a 9-1 record over his last 14 starts and sported a 4.26 ERA with 62 punchouts and 16 walks in 82 1/3 innings across 16 appearances with Class A Lansing. His 1.82 walk-per-nine-innings ratio stood fourth-best in the Midwest League.

"I didn't want to try to do too much, but I also didn't want to back off. I just wanted to stick to my gameplan, go with my strengths, trust my stuff and pitch the way I know how to pitch," he said. "And it worked."

Against the Threshers, Buffo retired the first four hitters he faced before fourth-ranked Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak grounded a single into right field. After walking Luke Williams on five pitches, Buffo fanned No. 16 Jose Gomez on a slider in the dirt to begin a stretch of 10 set down in a row.

"He came in here from Lansing, and I had an idea of the way he liked to go at hitters, but seeing what he did tonight and the way he attacked these guys really shows he has a lot of confidence in his ability," Riggins said.

With two outs in the fifth, Gabriel Lino turned around the first pitch he saw from the Brigham Young product and dropped a single into left. Buffo responded by retiring 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced, including seven in a row to end his outing.

"I wanted to finish the game," said Buffo, who was pulled after throwing 92 pitches -- 69 for strikes. "I still felt really good. I stayed mentally locked in the whole game and I felt like I was still strong in those late innings. But [Dunedin manager Casey Candaele] shook my hand and that was it."

Buffo had reached 84 pitches after the seventh and there was an exchange between Candaele and Riggins about letting him go out for the eighth. The coaches agreed to pull him at the first sign of laboring. There was none, he twirled an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning.

"When most guys get called up to the next level, you give them a couple of games to fit in. You don't really make much of their first couple of starts, you just let them get settled," Riggins said. " But Maverik showed tonight that he didn't need any time. He was ready to accept the challenge."

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Left-hander Jake Fishman worked around a leadoff hit by No. 3 Philadelphia prospect Adam Haseley in the ninth to complete the shutout.

Toronto's No. 16 prospect, Riley Adams, capped a six-run third inning with a grand slam to center off second-ranked Phillies prospect Adonis Medina (8-3), who also gave up a solo shot to No. 18 Blue Jays prospect Kevin Smith. Smith finished with a pair of RBIs.

"It was great to have an offense like that," Buffo said. "You never go out there and relax, but in a way having that run support is relaxing. It makes you want to stay aggressive and I took it right to them. Also, [Adams] was great all night. He's a great catcher and he calls a great game. And the defense was great behind me too."

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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