RiverDogs' Encinas stifles Drive

Yankees prospect allows one hit over six shutout innings

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com | April 7, 2013 5:03 PM ET

While C.C. Sabathia was busy pitching the big club to a shutout on Sunday in Detroit, a few rungs lower on the Yankees' ladder, Gabe Encinas was doing the same for the Class A Charleston RiverDogs.

The 21-year-old right-hander fired off six one-hit innings, striking out six and walking three, in a 5-0 blanking of the Greenville Drive.

Brett Gerritse yielded a pair of hits while fanning one in the seventh and Taylor Garrison retired all six batters he faced to finish off the RiverDogs' first shutout of the season.

For Encinas (1-0), it was a nice way to acclimate himself to full-season ball.

"Felt good, the team played great, all-around baseball," he said. "Today we established the fastball early. I was able to throw the four-seam and two-seam for strikes, get ahead in the count, and that's what pretty much gave me the edge today."

The 6-foot-3 right-hander was a highly regarded prospect out of St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., when the Yankees selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 Draft. He spent two years in Rookie-level and short-season ball before making his South Atlantic League debut against the Red Sox's Class A affiliate.

Last year in the New York-Penn League, Encinas racked up a 4.97 ERA over 70 2/3 innings, striking out 48 and walking 39. In the Gulf Coast League in 2011, he was 3-0 with a 5.08 ERA in 12 appearances.

"Last year, I struggled with getting ahead in the count. I have to make sure I establish that [strike] zone right away," he said. "That's what I'm focusing on right now, establishing the fastball and then getting that curve in for strikes. I didn't have that in my pocket last year as much, and now I feel really comfortable with it.

"When I needed to execute an off-speed pitch I was able to do it, and that kept them off-balance."

Encinas said his fastball generally sat around 92-93 mph, although it touched 95 mph a couple of times.

A handful of regulars from last year's Staten Island team have graduated to Charleston, including Taylor Dugas, Peter O'Brien and Fu-Lin Kuo, who were in Sunday's lineup. Encinas said he thinks they've blended well with the RiverDogs' returning veterans.

"It's a good mix of guys," Encinas said. "Especially for the Staten Island guys I came up with, this year I feel like we fit in right away. We're all a family and everything here now."

Gregory Bird, who played in 11 games with Staten Island last year, went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs, Yankees No. 9 prospect Dante Bichette Jr. added a two-run blast and Dugas went 2-for-4 out of the ninth spot in the lineup.

Encinas bested No. 14 Red Sox prospect Brian Johnson (0-1), who allowed a run on six hits and a walk while striking out two over four innings.

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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