BLUEFIELD — Eric Pardinho pitched like one of the top young pitching prospects in baseball.
Noel DeJesus just pitched better.
DeJesus scattered four hits over seven innings and Johnson City pushed across two runs to earn a 2-0 Appalachian League victory over the Bluefield Blue Jays in front of an announced audience of 575 at Bowen Field at Peters Park.
“Their starter, you have got to give him a lot of credit,” Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said. “He must have been getting his innings in in extended spring training because that is where he was at. He pitched well, he worked fast, he threw strikes.”
Pardinho, who was signed by Toronto out of Brazil last year for a record signing bonus of $1.4 million at age 16, was terrific in his professional debut, allowing just two hits and one run in four innings on the mound, striking out five and walked two.
“A 17-year-old, just turned 17 maybe a month or two ago,” Holmberg said. “A good outing for him, steps in the right direction.”
Johnson City pushed across a run in the second when Sanel Rosendo singled to right, moved to second on a passed ball and reached third on a ground ball to first base by Nolan Gorman, who was St. Louis’ top draft pick in the draft earlier this month. Rosendo then scored on a slow roller by Donivan Williams, which traveled maybe 20 feet down the third base line. Pardinho got to the ball, but his throw to first wasn’t in time.
The only other run and hit for the Cardinals was an opposite field solo home run over the left field fence by Dariel Gomez in the sixth inning off Troy Watson, who was the second of five relievers used by Holmberg over the final five innings. The Blue Jays combined to strike out 10 and walk four batters.
“I thought our bullpen last night and our bullpen tonight was good,” said Holmberg, who used six pitchers in the Blue Jays’ 8-7 win over Johnson City in the season opener on Tuesday. “We were able to use close to eight or nine guys rather than them sitting around for three or four days. I think everybody down there has just about pitched now.”
DeJesus was simply unhittable for much of the night, with the Blue Jays getting runners to second just twice in the game. P.K. Morris, who reached on an infield single in the second, doubled to center in the ninth, one batter after Greg Aiello had bounced into a double play. Consecutive two-out walks in the fourth was Bluefield’s only other scoring opportunity, but DeJesus pitched out of the jam. Davis Schneider also had two hits for the home team.
Kyle Leahy pitched the final two innings to pick up the save for the Cardinals, who had just four strikeouts on the mound, but were flawless in the field.
“The early part of the ball game, I don’t know if our hitters were really on time with (DeJesus),” Holmberg said. “We tried to slow him down a little bit later in the game, but it was well played, well pitched, really by both sides. A competitive ball game and anytime you have a chance late in the ball game. If we don’t hit into the double play for whatever reason and then Morris doubles, we might be tied or even have a chance to win.”
Instead, the Blue Jays, which out-hit the Cardinals 7-3, simply couldn’t get a timely hit when needed.
“We were one or two hits away. Neither team really hit the ball that well,” Holmberg said. “Three hits for them, seven for us. It was a well played game for this league and the players and something to taken away from not winning and to learn from. Some nights you just can’t throw out all your base hits and score a lot of runs.”
Bluefield banged out 13 hits in Tuesday’s opening night win, coming over several deficits, but the Blue Jays had no such luck with the bats on this night.
“I think there were five lead changes or we were down five different times (in the game). It was a very competitive ball game,” Holmberg said. “We gave the guys a lot of credit, they have a lot of fight in them. I think they have some fight in them too, but you have got to give the starting pitcher a little bit of credit for what he did tonight. That is the story.”
Bluefield (1-1) will host Johnson City (1-1) tonight, with the opening pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. Expect Holmberg to spread the playing time out once again in an effort to get most of the 30-man roster involved in the opening series of the season.
“It worked out good and there is something to be said, like my lineup for the first three nights,” he said. “I am going to try to get everybody playing, get their feet wet, get the butterflies out of the way, even with the catchers...It is just providing opportunity and getting them out there and see what happens.”
at Bowen Field
Johnson City.....010 001 000 — 2 3 0
Bluefield............000 000 000 — 0 7 1
Noel DeJesus, Kyle Leahy (8) and Benito Santiago. Eric Pardinho, Cre Finfrock (5), Troy Watson (6), Fitz Stadler (7), Grant Townsend (8), Brad Wilson (9) and Alejandro Kirk. W—DeJesus (1-0); L—Pardinho (0-1); S—Leahy (1). HR—Dariel Gomez (1) 6th, 0 on. Att—575.