For A.J. Puckett, Monday night was the best and the worst of times.The No. 10 Kansas City prospect turned in six hitless innings, but walked a career-high six in Class A Advanced Wilmington's 10-1 win at Frederick. He struck out four.
For A.J. Puckett, Monday night was the best and the worst of times.
The No. 10 Kansas City prospect turned in six hitless innings, but walked a career-high six in Class A Advanced Wilmington's 10-1 win at Frederick. He struck out four.
Gameday box score
"It's not the best, walking six guys," Puckett said. "But our offense was getting it done. They swung the bats really well, and we got the win. I'm just happy we were able to come away with a win."
The right-hander has earned praise for his command, which MLB Pipeline rates as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but his 30 walks through 48 1/3 innings rank second among Carolina League pitchers behind Potomac's Joan Baez, who has given up 34 in 34 1/3 frames.
"It's something I'm not happy about," said Puckett, who sports a 3.54 ERA. "In Spring Training, with [the organization's coaching staff], we worked out some things with my mechanics, changing up working on the left and right side of the mound, just a couple minor changes.
"All the things that we've worked on, me and the coaches are completely in [agreement] that it's going to help me perform as a pitcher down the road. But when you're feeling good in college and a little bit last year, all those changes alter you a little bit. I'm going to stay strong with it and keep battling. It may even be a good thing in the long run that I'm struggling with it now."
After walking leadoff man Stephen Wilkerson, the 2016 second-rounder retired eight in a row. Even during that stretch, Puckett (5-3) didn't feel like he was cruising.
"I guess I was rolling, but it didn't seem like that," he said. "I wasn't getting ahead, but I made a couple pitches and they helped me out. They were getting themselves out."
Puckett ran into trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with walks to Wilkerson, Drew Turbin and Ademar Rifaela, but he fanned Shane Hoelscher and Josh Hart to escape the jam.
"I just wasn't throwing a lot of strikes. It was one of those days where I was effectively wild," the Pepperdine product said. "I got into one of those situations where I had to go and battle and attack with whatever I had."
He retired the side in order in the fifth, but again issued consecutive walks to Wilkerson and Turbin to open the sixth. First baseman Chris DeVito was credited with an unassisted double play when umpire Tom Hanahan called Turbin out for interfering with DeVito's effort to snag a popout by Austin Hays.
"I didn't really see it because I was going to cover first," Puckett said, "but I just have to say thanks to the umpires. There's two outs."
He got Rifaela to bounce out to DeVito to end the inning. After throwing 43 of 88 pitches for strikes, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler didn't try to make a case to pitch the seventh.
"I was more frustrated with walking six guys," he said. "When I came in and [Blue Rocks pitching coach Charlie Corbell] said I was done for night, it wasn't one of those times where the pitcher says, 'Come on, I'm throwing a no-hitter. Let me keep pitching.' I understand that I hadn't had a lot of control. That doesn't [inspire] a lot a trust in the manager. I think it was the right move to make."
Hoelscher broke up the no-hit bid with a home run off Gabe Cramer to start the seventh, but the Stanford product struck out five and permitted two hits over two frames. Yunior Marte fanned two in a perfect ninth.
"I had complete faith [that they'd finish the no-hitter]," Puckett said. "Our bullpen has been pitching very good all season long. I wish they'd carried it out, but one run, two total hits over nine innings ... that's a pretty good night for a pitching staff."
No. 23 Royals prospect Nicky Lopez -- who hit his first homer of the season Sunday -- went yard on the game's first pitch and also tripled, drove in two runs, scored twice, drew a walk and stole a base. Chase Vallot, ranked No. 6 in the system, also homered, plated two and scored twice.
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB.