A veteran with 14 wins and 60 Major League games under his belt doesn't often find himself playing in places like Vero Beach, Fla., or Wappingers Falls, N.Y. But it's been a long and winding road for Doug Waechter.
Waechter turned in the finest outing of what has been a frustrating season, firing six hitless innings Sunday as the Vero Beach Devil Rays defeated the Brevard County Manatees, 8-2, at Holman Stadium.
The 26-year-old right-hander walked two and struck out six before being lifted for Jino Gonzalez, who pitched a perfect seventh before surrendering a leadoff single to Yohannis Perez in the eighth. Eddie De La Cruz allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in the ninth.
While losing the no-hitter might have been disappointing to fans and teammates, it wasn't something Waechter (2-4) dwelled on, especially coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.
"I was aware that I had it [no-hitter] going, but I also knew that my pitch count was up," he said. "My goal was to get out there and throw as many innings as I could, and that ultimately was six. I was actually lucky in that the coaches upped my pitch count from 70-75 in my last few starts to 80-85 tonight."
Waechter went 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four starts with short-season Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League before a promotion to Vero Beach, where things haven't gone as smoothly. He entered his seventh start for the Devil Rays with a 6.83 ERA, though he's noticed significant progress in his past three outings.
"It's all part of the process. Obviously, I want to go out there and pitch well, but coming back from any type of surgery isn't easy. It takes time," Waechter said. "I've been feeling much better on the mound in my last three starts. I was just throwing before rather than pitching.
"My fastball is getting back to where it was pre-surgery and I've started throwing a cut fastball, which is not only helping me stay consistent with my delivery, but it's also allowing me to get quicker outs."
While quicker outs ultimately will lead to more favorable results, Waechter has his eyes set on a much bigger prize.
"My goal is to get back to the Major Leagues as soon as possible. If this is the year, so be it, but I'm just going to continue to go out there, show that I'm healthy and just leave the rest up to the team to decide," he said.
Sergio Pedroza drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and his team-leading 20th homer. Jackson Brennan also went deep, blasting a two-run shot, his eighth, that sparked a four-run seventh for the Devil Rays (17-36).
Patrick Cottrell and Alex Jamieson also had sacrifice flies and Aaron Sisk smacked a two-run double.
Brevard County starter David Welch (6-6), who took a perfect game into the eighth against Vero Beach on July 26, allowed four runs -- three earned - on seven hits while fanning three over six innings.
Perez and Mat Gamel were the only players to collect hits for the Manatees (28-26), who dropped one game behind first-place St. Lucie in the Florida State League's East Division.