Osuna announces arrival with 13 Ks

Teen tosses five one-hit innings in Northwest League debut

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com | July 28, 2012 11:24 PM ET

Roberto Osuna faced 19 batters on Saturday night. He struck out 13 of them.

Oh, yeah. He's 17 years old.

The Blue Jays prospect was touched for one hit and issued one walk over five scoreless innings in his Northwest League debut as Vancouver dropped a 7-6, 10-inning decision at Everett.

Signed away from the Diablos Rojos del Mexico last August for a reported $1.5 million, Osuna joined the short-season Canadians after seven appearances for Rookie-level Bluefield. And he produced the kind of performance that signals the arrival of a phenom.

"The way he looked tonight, the way he threw his fastballs, the way they took bad swings, it was like a grown man throwing against a Little League team from 45 feet," said Vancouver pitching coach Jim Czajkowski. "They couldn't touch him."

Osuna, the nephew of 11-year Major League veteran Antonio Osuna, began his stateside career in the Appalachian League. In seven appearances with Bluefield, he went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA, striking out 24 over 24 innings.

That success earned him a quick promotion to the Northwest League, which might seem aggressive until you consider he was facing far more advanced competition at this time last year. Osuna pitched 19 2/3 innings in the Mexican League, posting a 5.49 ERA as a 16-year-old facing grown men, some of them former Major Leaguers.

Along with Everett's Victor Sanchez, who struck out eight over six innings opposite Osuna on Saturday, he was widely considered one of the top two international pitching prospects to sign last year.

"Being around older guys in the baseball atmosphere and listening to them talk, he probably picked up a lot. He's a very intelligent kid," Czajkowski said. "He's picked up [English] extremely fast. He's very intuitive of what's going on around him."

Czajkowski, who also worked with Osuna at extended spring training, said he threw 75 pitches. He registered four three-pitch strikeouts while delivering his fastball anywhere from 90-95 mph, generally sitting around 93. Czajkowski called it one of the best performances by a prospect he's seen during a 25-year career in baseball.

"We knew he was a talent and he showed it off tonight. That was by far one of the best outings I've seen in a long, long time," he added. "[Everett] is one of the best teams in the league and he just flat-out dominated them.

"He's got that late life [on his fastball] that defies gravity and just rises above hitters' bats. And they just can't catch up to it. The way he spotted guys up tonight was like taking candy from a baby for him. One of those things where he's just completely on. He rose to the challenge."

Czajkowski said the only pitcher he could recall looking like Osuna did on Saturday at such a young age was Julio Teheran, with whom he worked as a coach in the Braves system. It would not be surprising to see Osuna's ascent following a similar path as Teheran's he added.

"I'm very high on this guy. I think the quality of pitches I saw tonight and his ability to command them and repeat them, his feel for the game is beyond his youth," Czajkowski said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we moved him fast, and in a few years he's pitching in the big leagues at 20, 21.

"He's very mature on the field. Off the field, he's a goof, a funny kid. He's 17. But on the field, he is a monster."

Osuna did not come away with a win, however.

Everett's Mike Zunino, the third overall pick in last month's Draft, hit a three-run homer to cap a five-run ninth. He finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Jamodrick McGruder delivered a walk-off single in the 10th.

Nick Baligod led Vancouver with three hits and three RBIs.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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