Tampa's De La Cruz proves unhittable

Yankees lose no-hitter in last frame of twinbill against Jays

Joel De La Cruz has recorded 32 strikeouts while walking 17 this season. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | July 9, 2013 9:07 PM ET

A reliever and spot starter for Class A Advanced Tampa most of the season, it was Joel De La Cruz's role that eventually stood in his way at a shot at history Tuesday night.

The right-hander hurled five hitless innings in the second half of the twinbill against Dunedin,but the Yankees did not want to risk sending him back out to the mound in what proved to be a 7-0 rout of the Blue Jays.

"He was on a specific pitch count because he has been a spot starter throughout the year for us and we wanted to keep his pitch count near 70," Tampa pitching coach Jeff Ware said.

"We had to take him out. In the long run, the safety of the kid's arm is the biggest thing. Right now, at this point in his young career, we have to look after his arm."

Manny Barreda worked a hitless sixth, but he lost the no-hit bid when left fielder Marcus Knecht singled with one out in the seventh.

Tampa was in search of its the first no-no since Jose Ramirez and Branden Pinder beat St. Lucie, 1-0, last July 12.

"They were both outstanding," Ware said of De La Cruz and Barreda. "They worked ahead in the count and down in the zone all night. They were both able to throw all three of their pitches -- fastball, slider, change-up -- and they were able to throw them at any time in the count."

A walk and a pair of errors meant De La Cruz faced 18 batters over a season-high five innings, but his three-pitch mix kept the Blue Jays guessing throughout.

Added Ware: "He had an excellent power sinker. It was in the low 90s and it had a lot of sink. He was able to keep them off balance in every at-bat. Most of his misses were down in the zone, and I think he rolled seven groundball outs.

"He used mostly his change-up early, then mixed in his slider in the middle of the game. They couldn't really expect anything, and any time you can keep the hitters guessing they can't sit on any particular pitch or location."

The outing helped De La Cruz improve to 4-2 and lower his ERA to 2.61. A native of the Dominican Republic, he has allowed three earned runs in 27 innings over his past 10 games. In total, the right-hander has made three starts and 18 other appearances out of the bullpen, mainly in long relief.

Tuesday's performance was the best Ware has seen out of the 24-year-old.

"Going into the game, his bullpen was like most of them, just average. But that does not really mean anything. You could kind of see in the first inning [he was pitching well]. He walked the leadoff hitter and then that power sinker took over.

"I don't know how many three-pitch counts he had, maybe somewhere between seven or eight. His stuff was so crisp tonight that he was able to get a couple chases early below the zone."

Tampa catcher Gary Sanchez hit his 13th homer, right fielder Yeral Sanchez plated two runs and third baseman Peter O'Brien collected a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored.

Dunedin starter Shawn Griffith (0-3) allowed five runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three batters over two innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More