If ever there was a team in need of a shot in the arm ...
And in the arms department is exactly where the Modesto Nuts got a boost Tuesday night. It came in the form of left-hander Ryan Carpenter, signed by Colorado 17 days ago out of independent baseball.
Carpenter gave Modesto six shutout innings in his California League debut, and the Nuts rode a flurry of extra-base hits to a 7-2 victory over Visalia at John Thurman Field.
“It felt really good,” said Carpenter, a 23-year-old product of Gonzaga. “It had been awhile since I’d thrown off a mound and it felt really good, to say the least, to go out there and have a really good game.”
Carpenter was a seventh-round pick of Tampa Bay in the 2011 draft, and last season went 7-6 with a 4.63 ERA with the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League.
He went to spring training hoping to earn a spot in the Rays’ Double-A rotation, but in late March, just two weeks before the start of the season, he was released.
“It came as a big surprise, and I’ve been going through ups and downs ever since,” Carpenter said. “I took a little time off and scrambled to find a team.”
He signed with the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs of the independent American Association and made the drive from his home in suburban Phoenix to join his new club.
“I was in Lincoln for two days,” Carpenter said. “Drove there, spent two days and drove right back. I was thankful the Rockies picked me up. I’m comfortable already and looking forward to the future.”
And if his first outing was any indication, so are the Nuts.
“He gave us exactly what we needed,” said Modesto manager Don Sneddon. “We brought him up and nobody really knew what to expect because no one had seen him pitch. He beat a good club – shut them down. It was a fun game.”
The Nuts staked Carpenter to a comfortable lead, thanks to two-out production that started just as the crowd of 3,335 was getting settled. Sean Dwyer’s two-out RBI double in the first was followed by Dean Espy’s single to left-center for a 2-0 lead.
Pat Valaika, a 2013 draft pick out of UCLA playing in his first home game for Modesto, led off the second with a triple and scored when David Kandilas singled with two outs. After Kandilas stole second, he strolled home when Chris O’Dowd drilled a triple to left.
The Nuts cleared the fence on back-to-back pitches in the fourth on blasts by Derek Jones and Matt Wessinger for a 6-0 lead.
Valaika’s second hit, a single to left-center, scored former Bruins teammate Espy for a 7-0 lead, and Modesto was enjoying a rare laugher.
Carpenter was done after 85 pitches, through which he allowed three hits – all singles – with three walks against five strikeouts in his first time pitching in a real game since his last outing last season with Charlotte.
“I’m a little tired now, but I felt like I stayed strong through the game,” Carpenter said. “No complaints.”