If the first batter was any indication of how A.J. Ladwig's night would go, he was in for a rough one.As it turned out, ninth-ranked Yankees prospectJorge Mateo's leadoff double was the reality check the right-hander needed Friday night.
If the first batter was any indication of how A.J. Ladwig's night would go, he was in for a rough one.
As it turned out, ninth-ranked Yankees prospectJorge Mateo's leadoff double was the reality check the right-hander needed Friday night.
Ladwig kept his composure from there on, allowing just the one baserunner over six innings and striking out six as Class A Advanced Lakeland blanked Tampa, 5-0, at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"The first batter of the game, you're always amped up," Ladwig said. "That was a good pitch, too, but Mateo's a good hitter. I knew him from last year, but he put a good swing on the ball. That actually settled me down and [I was] just pretty trying to locate everything, really."
After Mateo's extra-base knock, Ladwig settled in and retired the next 18 Yankees, using a mix of pitches to keep them off-balance. The 24-year-old right-hander's game plan was simple and effective, varying speeds and changing the eye level of each hitter. The strategy was both effective and efficient as Ladwig threw 43 of 59 pitches for strikes.
"Pretty much just locating my fastball and working off that," the Wichita State product said. "I worked on keeping my off-speed down and even throwing a few in the dirt at times to some hitters. Yeah, it was mostly fastballs. Locating in and out -- sometimes up, sometimes getting a couple of strikeouts without getting the fastball up. But, yeah, mostly fastballs for the night."
With a five-run lead in the sixth, Ladwig continued to cruise through the Tampa lineup, although he faced one last challenge before exiting. Ladwig fell behind Mateo, 2-1, but did not work around him, throwing back-to-back strikes to register his final strikeout.
Tigers No. 21 prospectJairo Labourt and 17th-ranked Drew Smith took over from there, finishing off a two-hitter and ensuring Ladwig's first win of the season.
"They're always a good team, the Yankees are always a good organization, so it's really nice to throw well against them," Ladwig said. "I saw a few of them last year, so I knew how to pitch them a little bit. I think I pitched to my strengths."
A Florida State League midseason All-Star last year, Ladwig got into a groove at the end of 2016 with a 2.69 ERA over his final five starts. That success and the momentum from his 2017 debut are what the 6-foot-5 right-hander is looking to carry into subsequent outings.
"I'm just going to try and go out there and do what I did tonight, pretty much -- nothing special," he said. "I'm not going to really do anything different. I'll just go through my normal routine and I should be all right, hopefully."
Labourt struck out four in two perfect innings and Smith fanned one in a scoreless ninth. Quincy Latimore and Wade Hinkle both homered and drove in two runs for the Flying Tigers.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.