Adrian Morejon has given the Padres numerous reasons for optimism when it comes to his potential, but perhaps none greater than his performance Wednesday night.
San Diego's No. 6 prospect allowed three hits and struck out seven over a career-high seven innings as Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore blanked Rancho Cucamonga, 1-0, at The Diamond. The victory snapped a five-start winless streak for Morejon (1-3), who lowered his ERA more than a full run to 3.68 following his 84-pitch outing.
"It's funny, but [Storm manager Edwin Rodriguez] and I were talking to him just the other night about him being close," Storm pitching coach Pete Zamora said. "We told him you've been good lately, but there's a little something more in there. Adrian's aptitude is off the charts and because of that, we had an idea tonight might be a good one. He's made steady progress from start to start and he certainly doesn't pitch like he's 19."
Gameday box score
Bouncing back after allowing four runs for the second time in three starts, the 19-year-old southpaw gave up a two-out double to Cristian Santana in the first inning. But the No. 14 Dodgers prospect was thrown out by Storm right fielder Jorge Ona trying to stretch the hit into a triple. Morejon set down the next 11 batters before issuing his only walk of the night to Omar Estevez with two outs in the fifth. Dodgers' 29th-ranked prospect Donovan Casey followed with a single that moved Estevez to third, but the left-hander retired Cody Thomas to escape unscathed.
Los Angeles' No. 13 prospect Gavin Lux singled in the sixth but was erased when No. 30 Rylan Bannon lined into an inning-ending double play. Morejon set down Rancho Cucamonga in order in the seventh to eclipse his previous career high of six innings, accomplished three times in 2017 with Class A Short Season Tri-City and most recently with Class A Fort Wayne last Aug. 12.
"We saw a pitcher tonight," Zamora said. "It wasn't about showcasing 96 [mph] or showing his great arm and athleticism. We saw a 19-year-old kid who was pitching efficiently, getting his breaking stuff over for strikes and putting guys away. He's extremely competitive and doesn't want to come out of the game. He knows that to pitch deep into the game, he needs to be efficient, and that's what he was tonight. He pitched to contact when he needed to, put the ball over the plate and put it all together.
"What I want to see moving forward is the ability to repeat himself. The guys in the big leagues are there because they can do it day in and day out. He can celebrate tonight's win for a few hours, but now start worrying about his next start and get dialed in. We want him to get that routine down, that professionalism down. Obviously, he's taking some big steps towards that right now."
The Cuban-born hurler signed with the Padres in 2016 and delivered a solid professional debut last year. Morejon went 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA and struck out 58 batters over 63 innings in 13 combined starts between the Dust Devils and the TinCaps. The road has been a little tougher during his first month in the California League, where MLB.com's No. 48 overall prospect entered Wednesday's start with a 4.84 ERA despite averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Morejon is one of six ranked pitching prospects the Storm have on their roster, which includes right-handers Michel Baez (No. 5), Chris Paddack (No. 22), Pedro Avila (No. 25), David Bednar (No. 27) and Reggie Lawson (No. 30).
"Man, I have a big smile on my face every day when I wake up knowing what's waiting for me at the park," Zamora said about his crop of young pitchers. "They all listen and like to compete with each other. I won't be surprised to see these guys trying to get where Adrian was tonight. They're getting their feet wet. They've had some good and some bad, but they all believe they belong here and that's what we want to see from them."
Lake Bachar and Trevor Megill combined to strike out three over two perfect innings to finish off Lake Elsinore's second shutout of the season.
Padres No. 19 prospect Edward Olivares and Kelvin Melean had two hits apiece for the Storm, who scored on a passed ball in the seventh by Quakes catcher Connor Wong, the Dodgers' 15th-ranked prospect.
Rancho Cucamonga starter Dustin May scattered six hits and a walk over five shutout frames. The Los Angeles' No. 11 prospect tied his career high with nine strikeouts. Jason Richman (1-1) surrendered an unearned run on one hit while fanning one in 1 1/3 innings.