Dan Slania hadn't been listed as a starting pitcher in a baseball game since his senior year of high school. That was 2010. So it came as quite a shock on May 24 of this year when Flying Squirrels pitching coach Steve Kline said to a struggling Slania, "Happy birthday, you're starting on Thursday."
It's been just over two months since Slania made that start, in which he struck out eight and allowed just two baserunners in five innings of work. His next challenge came Sunday night in Sacramento when he pitched in his Triple-A debut.
"I struggled in the first inning. I was a little jumpy and a little excited. But being able to calm down and throw some strikes really helped out," Slania said after the game.
Centerfielder Austin Slater helped ease the jitters with two spectacular diving catches in that first frame, saving what would have likely been two bloop singles.
"I owe him something," Slania said. "Those were pretty good catches. Definitely calmed my nerves down."
Slania finished the night throwing exactly 100 pitches in seven strong innings, giving up just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out five. His season ERA is down to 2.41, but is 1.46 since moving into the rotation. He quickly developed the ability to go deep into ballgames, and deep into pitch counts, reaching 99 pitches in just his fourth start.
"I've just taken every inning I go out there as an inning out of the bullpen. I've been trying to attack hitters and get first-pitch outs and that's allowed me to go deeper into games," he said.
So far, Slania has averaged just over six innings and 91 pitches per outing to go along with a sub-one WHIP. In 67.2 innings, Slania has surrendered just 47 hits, including 13 extra-base hits. It all adds up to a opponent slash line of .195/.254/.261 in 11 games. By comparison, the Giants' top starting pitcher prospect Tyler Beede has this opponent slash line during his last 11 games: .257/.327/.373.
— Jacob Heyward cannot be stopped in the Arizona League right now. His two-hit night, which included a double and a triple, brought his batting average up to .424 in 82 plate appearances. Even more impressive is his .797 slugging percentage, made up of nine doubles, five triples, and a home run, as well as a 20.7 walk rate thanks to 17 walks. The plethora of outfield talent already in Salem-Keizer should keep Heyward in Arizona until the end of the year, but he will certainly, barring injury or major setback, be part of either the Augusta GreenJackets or San Jose Giants opening day rosters in 2017.
TOP-30 PROSPECTS ROUNDUP
- Phil Bickford: DNP
- Christian Arroyo: 1-for-4, R
- Tyler Beede: DNP
- Chris Shaw: 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
- Lucius Fox: DNP
- Bryan Reynolds: 1-for-4, 2B, RBI
- Sam Coonrod: DNP
- Aramis Garcia: DNP
- Joan Gregorio: DNP
- Andrew Suarez: DNP
- Jordan Johnson: DNP
- Steven Duggar: 1-for-4, R
- Steven Okert: DNP
- Rodolfo Martinez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
- C.J. Hinojosa: 1-for-4, R, HR, 3 RBI, SO
- Clayton Blackburn: DNP
- Jalen Miller: 0-for-4, R, BB
- Ray Black: DNP
- Dylan Davis: 1-for-4, SO
- Chase Johnson: DNP
- Heath Quinn: 1-for-4, RBI, 2 SO
- Matt Krook: DNP
- Hunter Cole: DNP
- Austin Slater: 2-for-4, 3 R, 2B, 3 RBI, BB
- Michael Santos: DNP
- Ty Blach: DNP
- Reyes Moronta: DNP
- Kyle Crick: DNP
- Chris Stratton: DNP
- Cory Taylor: DNP