A year ago, Eric Lauer was pitching for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore in the California League. A few more starts like he had Sunday and he may be back in California, this time at Petco Park in San Diego.
The Padres' No. 13 prospect tied his career high with 10 strikeouts over six innings as Triple-A El Paso blanked Las Vegas, 10-0, at Southwest University Park. Lauer (2-1) bounced back from a loss in his previous outing by limiting the 51s to three hits and two walks during a 97-pitch effort.
Gameday box score
"I've been pleasantly surprised from what I've seen of Eric," Chihuahuas pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "He had a good spring in big league camp and really handled himself well there. He goes out there and really competes. He's pitching like he's been [in Triple-A] for a few years instead of two weeks. He proved during camp that he should be here and he's continued to show that so far. If he stays healthy, it will be a really great thing for the Padres."
After working around a two-out double by Dominic Smith and a walk to Zach Borenstein in the first inning, the Chihuahuas scored two runs in the bottom half to give the Kent State product a cushion. Lauer gave up a single to Colton Plaia in the second and another knock to Smith in the third. Mets No. 22 prospect David Thompson walked leading off the fourth but was erased trying to steal second by Raffy Lopez. Including the two previous outs in the fourth, Lauer set down the last eight batters he faced, four via the strikeout.
Video: El Paso's Lauer ties career high with 10th K
"Eric has a knack of keeping hitters off-balance," Patrick said. "He doesn't throw exceptionally hard ... he'll top out around 92 [mph], but there's some good life to it and he keeps it out of the middle of the plate. He's able to elevate the pitch and change the batter's eye level, which gets them to chase while generating swings and misses."
Lauer's 10 whiffs equaled the personal best he set last June 10 with Lake Elsinore. The Ohio native was promoted to Double-A San Antonio on June 28, where he started slowly but finished well. He sported a 6.75 ERA in his first five starts with the Missions, then surrendered three runs over 27 innings in his final five appearances, including four starts. The left-hander finished 2017 -- his first full season -- with a 6-8 record, 3.30 ERA and 132 punchouts in 122 1/3 innings.
Although Patrick is pleased with the early-season results from Lauer, he said he knows it's a process and the adjustments he'll have to make ultimately will determine his big league chances.
"I want to see him continue to be consistent," the coach said. "He's still learning the league, the hitters and what they're trying to do against him. There will come a point where he'll have to learn to make adjustments, sometimes pitch by pitch. But he's a smart enough kid to do that. He asks questions of me all the time and takes advice very well. He understands things and he gets what he's trying to do."
Trey Wingenter, Tyler Webb and T.J. Weir each worked an inning as El Paso recorded its second shutout of the season.
Lopez fell a triple shy of the cycle, matched his career high with four hits and drove in three runs. Travis Jankowski and Brett Nicholas combined to go 6-for-8 with three doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored.