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'Jackets' Rivera rebounds with hitless start

Giants No. 18 prospect tosses five innings after rough debut
Blake Rivera made nine appearances for Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer last summer after being drafted. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)
April 16, 2019

Blake Rivera had a full-season debut to forget. His second outing was one to remember.The Giants' No. 18 prospect dealt five hitless innings on Tuesday night, striking out five and walking two, as Class A Augusta shut down Greensboro, 3-1, at SRP Park.

Blake Rivera had a full-season debut to forget. His second outing was one to remember.
The Giants' No. 18 prospect dealt five hitless innings on Tuesday night, striking out five and walking two, as Class A Augusta shut down Greensboro, 3-1, at SRP Park.

"The theme today for me was just to establish the inside part of the plate," Rivera said. "These guys were really aggressive swingers, so they were helping me out with keeping my pitch count down. Of course, I wanted to go back out, but five innings is the limit right now. Really just trying to pound the inside and making them get weak contact, popups, easy ground balls for my defense to work on. They really helped me out with early swinging."
Rivera retired the first six batters before issuing a leadoff walk to Rodolfo Castro in the third inning. The right-hander responded by retiring five in a row after the free pass. He walked Zach Cone with two outs in the fourth, but no other Grasshopper reached base as the GreenJackets starter set down the final four men he faced.
"The first one out there, I think I was a little amped up, so I really was focusing on my fastball command, locating it well," he said. "I just came out really focused on getting ahead of batters with my fastball and letting my off-speed stuff work late. That was kind of the plan for me today, to work in and out to these guys and try to establish my zone, make them chase my pitches, and that's kind of what happened."
Gameday box score
Rivera recorded at least one strikeout in four of his five innings and ended up throwing 33 of 58 pitches for strikes. The 21-year-old got six outs on the ground against two in the air.
"My defense helped out a lot with ground balls, making the plays, making everything work for me, letting me get right back on the mound after an out and letting me go right after the next hitter," he said. "There were a couple that got kind of out of the zone. I walked a guy, had to step off, take a deep breath, get back in the rhythm I was focusing on of establishing the zone with my fastball."
In his full-season debut on Wednesday, the 21-year-old didn't make it out of the second inning at Greenville and surrendered five runs -- four earned -- on four hits over 1 2/3 frames. He walked four batters and struck out three, throwing 25 of 53 pitches for strikes.
"I definitely felt a lot more comfortable [tonight], had that first one under my belt, and it really helped out just having to work through that first outing," he said. "I kind of came out with the mind-set of just completely forgetting about that last one, come out, throw that game that I know I can throw. It worked out. I was really competing in the zone with all my pitches, breaking stuff late, getting them to chase it. Changeup was working well out of the zone and they were chasing it. Really just making everything follow my fastball, making them have to have the fastball in the back of their mind [was big]."
The Giants selected Rivera in the fourth round of last year's Draft. The Alabama native debuted with Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer, posting a 6.16 ERA with 14 strikeouts against 11 walks over 19 innings in nine games, including eight starts. With his first stellar South Atlantic League outing under his belt, he knows what he'd like to do next time out.

"I felt really good with my command today and I feel like if I go out and do that every time, then I can give a good performance each time I go out," he said. "I just hope to keep that in the back of my mind, muscle memory stays with me throughout five days. I'm going to continue to work throughout these couple days between my starts and see what happens next."
With the game tied, 1-1, Frankie Tostado led off the GreenJackets seventh with an infield single and continued to second on a throwing error by catcher Grant Koch. He took third on a groundout and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Conner Loeprich (1-1).
Norwith Gudino (1-0) got the win, despite allowing a run on two hits with five strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings. Ryan Walker fanned two in 1 1/3 hitless frames for his first save of the season.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.