When Ryan Weathers took the mound Sunday for his third start with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps the vibe was different. With a victory, the Padres Class A affiliate would clinch a playoff berth and host the first of a three-game series against the Great Lakes Loons (LAD affiliate) Wednesday. With a loss, Labor Day’s 2:00 p.m. CST battle against the West Michigan White Caps (DET affiliate) becomes a win-or-go-home battle.
The Tin Caps piggy-backed starters, with Weathers throwing three innings and Brett Mosser, the Padres 2018, 27th-round draft pick, throwing five. The combination of electric arms allowed only two runs, but it wasn’t enough for Fort Wayne’s offense to overcome as they dropped the game 2-1 to the White Caps.
Weathers’ short, 41-pitch outing provided an advanced look at what the Padres 2018 first-round pick has to offer.
“I’ve kind of been on a strict pitch count all year... I threw a lot of innings in high school, so it’s been about the 50-55 [pitch] range [most nights]. Tonight wasn’t a must-win, but it was a clinching win, so [the team] wanted to go to Mosser and he’s a great option, he’s been absolutely shoving lately. We both threw well...”
The first of Weathers’ three innings was fastball dominant. He needed only 10 pitches to carve through three batters, throwing his only changeup in the final pitch of the inning to White Caps switch-hitter Wenceel Perez.
“I have a four-seam and a two-seam [fastball],” Weathers said. “The four-seam has a little natural run and two seam has more of a sinking action.”
Weathers’ fastballs sat between 88-92 mph, with his four-seamer likely occupying the upper end of that range and his two-seamer sitting in the lower end. The lone changeup of his outing came in at 82 mph.
Weathers second inning was different. He started his first two batters with get-me-over curveballs at 73-74 mph, a few mph below the 76- to 79-mph range his curveball sat in for the majority of the game. His hook became the featured pitch of the inning, breaking hard and out of the zone to catch hitters off-balance.
“My curveball from my arm slot sometime acts as a slurve,” Weathers. “But sometimes, especially to lefties, a little get-me-over curveball, first one they see, [combined] with one that has more of a hard break at the end, just to change it up a little bit, kind of puts two pitches in one.”
Ryan Weathers through 2 IP now with 27 pitches, lot of strikes. One hit, nothing else.— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) September 2, 2018
Started two batters in second inning with first-pitch curves. Fastball is sitting 89-92, curve 76-79, I think I saw one changeup at 82.
Below is the one hit.@TinCaps @Padres #Padres pic.twitter.com/ZiM07zrpuB
Weathers final inning was a blend of the first and second, a plan of attack Weathers confirmed with me after the game. He blended fastballs with curves, started one hitter with a harder curve than the get-me-over variety and came out of the second inning with only one small mark on his line.
“I threw some borderline pitches that I thought could have been strikes,” Weathers said. “One of them ended up, in my opinion, costing me a run. That’s baseball and it happens.”
The pitch Weathers alluded to above was a 77-mph curve to the White Caps Eric De La Rosa on an 0-2 count. Weathers’ body language on the mound suggested he thought the pitch was a strike. He froze after seeing the home plate umpire fail to punch out the White Caps hitter and took an extra second around the mound to compose himself. Otherwise, Weathers worked quickly for most of the outing from the windup and stretch.
De La Rosa reached on an infield single after not being punched out and later came around to score on a chopper up the middle to tie the game. A smooth 5-4-3 double play three pitches later ended Weathers’ night at three innings.
Ryan Weathers done after three innings. Wish I got to see more, only 41 pitches, working quick, productive outing despite the lack of K's. Guessing he had a set IP total?— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) September 2, 2018
I have him at 22% CU usage, one CH.
Final line: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 K, 41 pitches@TinCaps @Padres #Padres
“Changeup felt good, curveball felt good too,” Weathers said. “I probably should have thrown [my curveball] a couple times when I thought I should have thrown a fastball, but I trust my catcher with whatever the right pitch is, sometimes I miss my location.”
Despite the ease, Weathers didn’t possess the same swing-and-miss proficiency he had in his previous two Midwest League starts. His 30-percent strikeout rate coming into this outing will fall with a goose-egg in the strikeout column Sunday, but Weathers’ command—only one walk in nine innings with Fort Wayne—remains in tact.
“They’re a tough team and tonight was just one of those games,” Weathers said. “Whatever I was throwing they were putting the bat on, they weren’t hit hard, they were just battling up there and making me throw more pitches.”
If the Tin Caps win Monday, Weathers has a chance to make a playoff start even if a hard pitch or innings count remains. Piggy-backing with another dynamic arms in the Tin Caps rotation is also an option. Whatever the path to additional innings before instructs, at only 18 years old, Weathers has growth and a bright future ahead.