Rockies' Polanco comes to America in style

20-year-old right-hander pitches six one-hit innings, strikes out nine

The Rockies celebrate after Carlos Polanco's dominant Pioneer League debut on Wednesday night. (Grand Junction Rockies)

By Robert Emrich / | June 19, 2014 1:13 AM ET

Some of those in attendance at Lindquist Field probably didn't know who Carlos Polanco was before Wednesday night's game. They do now.

The Rockies prospect tossed six one-hit innings in his American debut as Rookie-level Grand Junction rolled to a 14-3 Pioneer League rout of Ogden.

Polanco (1-0) recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and walked three. He did not allow a hit until Devin Ahart singled with one out in the bottom of the sixth, ending a streak of five straight punchouts.

The 20-year-old right-hander set down the next two batters and exited after throwing 88 pitches, including 57 for strikes.

"He had a lively fastball tonight," Rockies pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. "He was beating the other team with his fastball up. He was having success with the fastball away, it was explosive tonight. He was also able to feature a changeup as well. The changeup was really deceptive."

"A punchout was either the fastball or the changeup. He had seven punchouts on his fastball, especially his fastball up, two punchouts with the changeup. He was setting it all up with the fastball."

The native of the Dominican Republic signed with the Rockies as a non-drafted free agent in September 2012. Polanco spent his first two seasons as a pro in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, going 4-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 appearances.

"He's got a really good fastball. I've seen it up to 97 mph in extended spring training," said Kibler, who was taken by the Rockies in the second round of the 1999 Draft. "It averages around 93, 94. It's got some down angle on, pitches down in the bottom of the strike zone. He elevated some tonight, which I know he'll make an adjustment on. He moves his fastball in and out well, he's not afraid to pitch inside.

"His second pitch is a changeup, that's his swing-and-miss pitch to lefties at times. The breaking ball is probably his third-best pitch and we're trying to develop it right now. Sometimes he loses the feel for it, but other times it's a swing-and-miss pitch."

It's difficult to know what to expect from a player making his stateside debut, and Kibler had modest hopes heading into Wednesday's outing.

"I was hoping he would just get through it," he said. "I had no idea what to expect in this environment. It could have gone really good or it could have gone really bad. He's never pitched in front of an audience like this before. In a different environment like this, under the lights, he handled it well.

"He recognized when he needed to make adjustments. It's good to see. It tells me a lot about him. I knew he had it in him."

Gavin Glanz followed Polanco and struck out three over two hitless innings, but Matt Pierpont gave up three runs on four hits in the ninth.

Hamlet Marte staked Polanco to an early lead with a three-run homer in the first. Randy Reyes slugged a grand slam and Wilson Soriano added a two-run blast as Grand Junction scored nine times in the fifth to break the game open.

Justin Chigbogu hit a two-run homer for the Raptors.

Rehabbing Dodgers left-hander Scott Elbert (0-1) recorded two outs in the first and was tagged for three runs on two hits and a walk.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More