NWL notes: Bellinger eyes brotherly matchup

Padres prospect hoping to one day pitch against Cody in Majors

Cole Bellinger got his first professional win on June 17, throwing five scoreless innings with four strikeouts for Tri-City. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Billy Gates / Special to MiLB.com | June 27, 2018 10:00 AM

The backyard Wiffle ball at the Bellinger household had to be epic.

With father Clay a former big leaguer and brother Cody coming off a National League Rookie of the Year season and a World Series appearance with the Dodgers in 2017, it's time for Cole to show the baseball world what another Bellinger can do.

A 15th-round pick of the Padres in 2017, Cole is beginning his path toward the Majors and maybe -- just maybe -- the right-handed pitcher could end up trying to get his brother out in an NL West showdown.

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"It's always been the dream to play against Cody in the Majors," Cole said. "The day I got drafted, it crossed my mind, but I've got a long way to go."

Cole began his pro career out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, coming off a pair of state championships and spurning a scholarship offer from Grand Canyon University. After some time in the Arizona League, followed by extended spring training earlier this season, Cole picked up his first professional win with the Tri-City Dust Devils on June 17.

He pitched five innings and didn't allow a run to the South Division-leading Salem-Keizer Volcanoes with four strikeouts and a pair of walks.

"It all started with my fastball command," he said. "All my off-speed pitches were working together, and it was just a just great feeling to be out there in a competitive setting."

It was quite a moment for Cole, he said, since he was a reliever all last season in the AZL. He has always seen himself as a starting pitcher, so taking the ball to open the game was easy.

"It felt normal," he said.

His second start didn't go so well -- two innings with three earned runs and four walks against Everett -- but those are the ups-and-downs every Minor League player faces. Even in short-season ball, the grind seems endless, but if anybody is mentally prepared for what life in the Minors is like, it's Cole.

"My dad told me all kinds of stories about when he was in the Minors," Cole said. "And I got to watch Cody enough that I kind of knew what to expect going in."

Clay played four MLB seasons, three for the Yankees and one for the Angels, and spent 16 seasons in the Minors. Like Cole, Clay began his career in the NWL, but with Everett in 1989. Clay hit .250 with 126 home runs and 631 RBIs in the Minors.

Cole's next start is scheduled for Friday at home against Boise.

In brief

Rincones raking early: Entering Tuesday's play, Salem-Keizer's Diego Rincones is leading the league in hitting with a .463 average. He has collected 19 hits in 41 at-bats, including a pair of homers and a league-leading 13 RBIs with 28 total bases. The Volcanoes are 7-4, a game in front of Boise and Hillsboro.

Packing the Nat: Vancouver fans are filing into Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium like the team won a league title last season. The defending NWL champs leads the circuit in average attendance thus far, averaging 6,035 fans per game, and their friendly confines will be rocking during an eight-game homestand that starts this week. Tri-City heads north of the border for a three-game series before Salem-Keizer enters for a five-game set.

Billy Gates 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.

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