Rangers' Wolff returns to form in AFL action

Right-hander hurls five one-hit frames for Javs in best start since 2014

In his last two AFL starts, Sam Wolff has held foes to six hits over 9 1/3 frames with five strikeouts. (Miranda Perez/MLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | November 9, 2015 11:59 PM

The road to recovery for Sam Wolff covered more than just a return to the mound.

After missing the 2015 season with a torn Achilles and having a tough start to his Arizona Fall League campaign, the Rangers right-hander felt back on top of his game with five one-hit frames in Peoria's 11-inning, 4-4 tie against Surprise on Monday.

"I feel like I'm at the same spot, I feel like I haven't skipped a beat. Been using the fall to get back into the rhythm of things," Wolff said. "I feel comfortable again on the mound and being able to compete."

Pitching in a game for the first time since August 2014, he allowed nine runs over his first three AFL starts as he got reacquainted with live hitters. He isn't overly concerned with getting his velocity back to the upper 90s he averaged before the injury.

"[I was] just getting adjusted to the rate of the play and being able to slow things down and focus on what I need to do the get hitters out rather than letting the game speed up on me," Wolff said. "I haven't really tried to look into [velocity] at all. Really just trying to throw strikes, getting ahead of hitters with fastball, offspeed, just really trying to locate all my pitches."

Start No. 4 proved to be a big step forward for Wolff. He held hitters to five hits and a walk while striking out four in 4 1/3 frames on Nov. 3 against Scottsdale. Facing the minimum Monday, the University of New Mexico product worked around a hit and a walk for his second straight scoreless outing.

"I felt really good, I felt comfortable, felt like I was filling the zone up, throwing a lot of strikes with a good mix of all my pitches, so it was fun," he said. "[It's] just a matter of getting ahead of hitters early in the count with my first couple pitches. I had great defense behind me, really great plays in the field, which definitely always helps. You're able to get comfortable, settle in.

"Being able to get ahead of hitters early, use my offspeed to get ground balls, get hitters off balance -- that was the biggest thing that worked for me today."

With just one or two starts left in the Fall League, Wolff feels like he's accomplished what he set out to do while also returning to the form he showed in his first full season.

"It's been fun and that's all I came into the fall [for], to have fun, compete. That's my main focus and I'm going to continue to finish up the fall with that focus. It's been a great time," he said. "This is a fantastic league. It's a lot of fun, the group of guys here is outstanding and that's been the biggest reward for me -- being able to be back on a team atmosphere around such a great group of guys."

No. 3 Mariners prospect D.J. Peterson slugged his third AFL homer -- a solo shot to right -- in the 11th to force the league's first tie of the year.

In other AFL action:

Scottsdale 10, Salt River 8 (11 innings)

The Rafters and the Scorpions also played into the 11th frame, but Sam Travis ensured victory in the other afternoon game. The No. 11 Red Sox prospect belted a walk-off three-run shot for his first long ball of the campaign. Just one spot ahead of Travis in the batting order, Giants' No. 13 prospect Mac Williamson collected three hits, plated two runs and scored twice. On the Salt River side, Nationals' No. 23 prospect Chris Bostick and Emilio Guerrero (Blue Jays) drove in three runs apiece. Gameday box score

Glendale 5, Mesa 3

No. 17 White Sox prospect Adam Engel -- the AFL's leading batter at .420 -- tripled, doubled and scored three runs at the top of the lineup for the Desert Dogs. Brandon Dixon (Dodgers) slugged a solo homer to cap the scoring and Austin Meadows, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect, plated a pair of runs. Cubs' No. 20 prospect Jeimer Candelario went 3-for-5 with a homer and two runs scored for the Solar Sox. Gameday box score

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. 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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