Juan Then's final start of the season was another reminder of how glad the Mariners must be to have the right-hander back in their system.
Seattle's No. 16 prospect tossed five hitless innings Monday in Class A West Virginia's 2-0 defeat of Greensboro at Appalachian Power Park. Then walked two batters and struck out three, lowering his ERA to 2.25 in three South Atlantic League outings.
"His stuff is excellent to start off with," said Power pitching coach Alon Leichman. "So just by him attacking with his heater and putting the pressure on them, they had to play defense."
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The Mariners originally signed Then (1-2) out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, but he was traded to the Yankees following the 2017 season before playing in the United States. New York shipped him back to Seattle in June in exchange for big league slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Then made his season debut for Class A Short Season Everett a week later.
The 19-year-old posted a 3.56 ERA in seven Northwest League appearances before being promoted to the Power, for whom he made his third start Monday. He's surrendered only seven hits in 16 innings, holding opponents to a .127 average.
The late-season assignment was a reunion of sorts for Then and Leichman; the duo worked together in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2017. Leichman quickly noticed Then better maintains his velocity now compared to when he was just 17. He's grown stronger since that season. His arsenal has too.
"His curveball got a lot more consistent," the pitching coach said. "It was a hit-or-miss kind of pitch two years ago. [Now] it's a pretty good pitch in terms of how consistent it is. Also, he added a slider that he didn't really have. Just the development of his changeup has been great. He told me it's the same grip from two years ago. He just kept throwing it and it's a really great pitch."
On Monday, Then worked around two walks in the first inning before facing the minimum the rest of the way. The only other Grasshopper to reach base against him was Jack Herman on a throwing error by second baseman Nick Rodriguez in the fourth. Then picked off Herman at first base.
2019 MiLB include
Right-hander Brendan McGuigan handled the next two frames for the Power and kept the no-hitter intact. The bid was lost in the eighth when Justin Harrer ripped a one-out triple off right-hander Robert Winslow. Greensboro's only other knock was Jonah Davis' leadoff double in the ninth, but righty Elias Espino retired the next three batters to seal the shutout, the team's 13th of the season.
Bobby Honeyman and Dean Nevarez drove in the Power's runs with back-to-back doubles in the first, enough run support to earn Then his first career win for a full-season affiliate.
"Finishing strong like this gives him all the confidence in the world," Leichman said. "He knows he belongs. He knows he can do great things in this game. Finishing strong like that just boosts the offseason morale for him. The last thing he told me before we left is he's going to work really hard and get stronger and get back next season."