Forrest Whitley continued a season-long string of dramatic debuts last Thursday, dominating in his first start in the third level of the minors he has competed at this season.
The 19-year-old right-handed pitcher selected by Houston in the opening round of the 2016 followed successful debuts with the Quad-Cities River Bandits and high-A Buies Creek Astros with a strong performance for AA Corpus Christi.
None of it is catching River Bandits manager Russ Steinhorn by surprise.
“He’s got terrific stuff and it’s going to be even more effective as he faces batters at higher levels,’’ Steinhorn said shortly after Houston promoted Whitley from the Midwest League to its Carolina League affiliate on July 1.
Less than seven weeks later, Whitley found himself on his way to the Texas League to finish out the current season getting a taste of the level he will likely begin the 2018 season.
“The movement on some of his pitches was going to allow him to get hitters out the way it will at higher levels,’’ Steinhorn said. “He’ll get guys up there to chase pitches that they won’t bite on in low-A ball where guys are sitting on the fastball.’’
For the season, the San Antonio native has a combined 5-4 record with a 2.80 earned run average in 20 appearances including 17 starts. Whitley has struck out 128 of the batters he has faced while walking 30 over 83.2 innings of work.
Whitley struck out 67 and walked 21 while going 2-3 over 46.1 innings of work for Quad-Cities, following that with 50 strikeouts and nine walks over 31.1 innings while going 3-1 for Buies Creek.
He struck out a career-high 11 batters and gave up two hits over six shutout innings Thursday in his Corpus Christi debut, but did not factor into the decision in a 2-1 loss at Tulsa.
“The hitters here have a plan. They’re stepping up to the plate knowing exactly they’re going to hit,’’ Whitley said. “They take good swings and hit your mistakes. You have to be ready.’’
The strong debut followed a similar initial start with each of the three full-season stops he has made this season.
For the River Bandits, he earned the win while allowing one hit and striking out six Peoria batters over five innings in a 2-0 Midwest League debut against the Chiefs.
He followed that by working five hitless innings while striking out nine for Buies Creek in his July 4 debut there in a 6-0 win over Potomac.
“It’s been a crazy year,’’ Whitley said. “I didn’t expect to make this last step. I’m excited to get the chance and it’s going to be a good experience for me. I know that. I’ll learn a lot from it.’’
Nearly perfect: Fort Wayne pitchers Lake Bachar and Jose Galindo came within one out of a perfect game Thursday night in a 7-0 win over South Bend.
Appearing in his fourth Midwest League game, Bachar worked seven hitless innings before Galindo took the mound and worked a perfect eighth inning.
Galindo struck out Albert Mineo and got Tyler Payne to pop out to open the ninth before the Cubs’ Jhonny Pereda drove a 3-1 pitch into center for a double, the only baserunner the TinCaps allowed. Andruw Monasterio flew out to end the game.
“I wasn’t mad or anything. I was just glad Galindo was out there competing. I was glad he didn’t walk him,’’ Bachar, a former Wisconsin-Whitewater pitcher, told MiLB.com. “… Things fell the way they did and you can’t really go back. I’m still excited for what we accomplished.’’
Hot streak: Clinton’s Jhombeyker Morales figured out how to bounce back from a 1-for-16 slump.
The LumberKings infielder responded with a 13-for-23 stretch that included a combined 7-for-7 effort in games against Kane County last Tuesday and Wednesday.
Morales’ work included a walk-off single in a 5-4 victory over the Cougars last Wednesday.
Finish line: With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Quad-Cities has helped position itself to earn the first of two available second-half playoff berths in the Western Division.
The River Bandits went 7-1 in a pair of four-game sets against the two teams chasing Quad-Cities for first, sweeping Beloit and taking three of four from Peoria.
Both have struggled even beyond the recent games they’ve played at Modern Woodmen Park, with the Snappers losing 13 of their last 16 games and the Chiefs dropping 10 of their last 18.
Alumni report: It’s been four years since Joe Mauer has had the type of season offensively he currently is having for Minnesota.
The Twins first baseman, a .302 hitter over 110 games with Quad-Cities in 2002, currently has a .290 batting average that is his best since hitting .324 in 2013.
The first overall pick in baseball’s 2001 draft is on pace to have his most productive season driving runs home since 2012.
TODAY: at Beloit, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: at Beloit, 7 p.m.
THURSDAY: at Beloit, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY: vs. Cedar Rapids, 6:30 p.m., MidAmerican Energy River Bandits lightbulb keychain giveaway, City of Davenport Night, postgame fireworks
SATURDAY: vs. Cedar Rapids, 6:30 p.m., Mountain Dew River Bandits backpack giveaway, school supply drive, Teacher Appreciation Night
SUNDAY: vs. Cedar Rapids, 1:15 p.m., Monkey Joe’s fidget spinner giveaway, United Healthcare Family Sunday, bark in the park, pregame autographs
MONDAY: vs. Cedar Rapids, First Responders Night, Brews & Brats Monday, Dollar Dogs
TODAY: at Burlington, 6:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: at Burlington, 6:30 p.m.
THURSDAY: at Burlington, 6:30 p.m.
FRIDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., Clinton Community College Back to School Bash
SATURDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., Cy-Hawk Night with game-ticket raffle, Sauk Valley Night, postgame concert by the Cal Stage Band
SUNDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 2 p.m., Jackson County Day, All Faith’s Day, Children’s Discovery Center Family Fun Day
MONDAY: vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., Mariners Monday