Saturday Pebble Report: Jayson Aquino and Alex Balog each have their best start of the season

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Friday was mostly about what happened on the mound, but a couple of big names in Asheville were also up to their usual tricks.

The affiliates went just 3-4 on the night, but there were several noteworthy individual performances.

Triple-A: Omaha 9, Colorado Springs 1

Yohan Flande mercifully made his return to the minor leagues after getting three MLB starts for the Rockies where he pitched to the tune of of a 7.36 ERA and was a major part of a loss in every game. Not surprisingly, things didn't go too well for the lefty. Flande allowed seven earned runs on ten hits and three walks in just  five innings of work.

The more interesting note involving the pitching staff here however (as noted by Sage Farron) is that the Rockies seem to be implementing a little bit of the old "Project 5183" plan where they have piggy backer starters working in a relief role. Right now, the current trip around the rotation for the Sky Sox  seems to be Brian Burres, Chris Capuano, Yohan Flande, Jair Jurrjens and Brett Tomko with Christian Friedrich, Juan Nicasio and Pedro Hernandez in the bullpen throwing three inning stints (although is does look like Hernandez will be back in the rotation). It remains to be seen if this will continue or if it's just something the Rockies are doing in response to cleaning up the mess at the major league level, but it's certainly a development to keep an eye on.

On Friday, it was Nicasio's turn to pitch out of the pen. Overall he didn't pitch terrible as he allowed just three hits and no walks over his three innings of work, but he did give up a home run which left him responsible for two earned runs. (Nicasio being used in a relief role here should tell you that that's where his future is with this team.)

Offensively, Tim Wheeler went 2-4 and Matt McBride recorded a triple in his first game back with the Sky Six since April, but not too much else happened with the sticks for the Sky Sox on Friday.

Double-A: Arkansas 7, Tulsa 3

The Drillers had something they're not used to happen to them on Friday: Their starer gave up four runs in the first inning and couldn't get more then nine outs. Ryan Kulik was on the mound and nothing about his three innings of works were positive. He allowed seven hits while walking three and striking out only one. He's in a real tough spot right now slotted between Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson in the rotation. Talk about being overshadowed.

On the other side of the ball, several key members of the Tulsa lineup, which has quietly gotten more and more interesting as the season's progressed, had sneaky good games. Trevor Story had his first multi hit game since being called up to Double-A, which was nice to see because he'd been struggling during his first couple of weeks there. Ryan Casteel was on base twice with a double and a walk (the walk was Casteel's seventh in his last eight games), Jared Simon continued his red hot July with his ninth home run of the season, and Taylor Featherston continued his solid but mostly overlooked campaign with his 23rd double of the year and a walk.

High-A: Modesto 2, Bakersfield 1

Jayson Aquino was outstanding in this one, throwing seven scoreless innings while striking out six on just four hits and three walks en route to a well deserved win. Aquino, who's spent time on the DL this year has two awful starts where he's allowed 17 of his 28 earned runs this season. In the other seven starts, he's got a 2.54 ERA. Unfortunately for him, you can't just throw out the bad starts, but his overall season breakdown and his most dominant outing of the year last night are both signs that his ceiling remains high.

Offensively, the Nuts were held to just four hits: One by Rosell Herrera, and two from both Chris O'Dowd and Matt Wessinger. Unfortunately, Patrick Valaika was held hitless for the fifth time in the last ten games. The 21-year-old infielder who breezed through Asheville this season has had a rough go of in it Modesto where he has just a .645 OPS in 44 games.

Low-A: Asheville 11, Kannapolis 1

The Tourists are the beasts of the South Atlantic League, and on Friday they delivered a beatdown that was every bit as lopsided as the score indicates. Alex Balog delivered his best start of the season, dropping his season ERA to just 3.53. Last year's second round pick tossed seven innings of one run ball while striking out nine and only walking two and allowing four hits.

As usual, run support was not an issue as the Tourists scored in every inning but the third. David Dahl went 4-5 with a double and had three RBI, Raimel Tapia went 2-4 and racked up two stolen bases to give him 22 on the year, Michael Benjamin had a pair of hits to push his OPS on the season back over .900, and Max White scored three runs, hit a triple, and walked. This offense is relentless.

Northwest League: Spokane 6, Tri-City 4

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Dust Devils. Blake Shouse saw his ERA remain over seven with an underwhelming outing in which he lasted just 5.1 innings while allowing four runs, but to be fair he gave up just one run in his first five innings of work before Evan DeLuca came in and allowed all three of his inherited runners to score.

Meanwhile, Marcos Derkes and Shane Hoelscher each has two hits, but this offense remains thoroughly uninteresting for now as Josh Fuentes is the only member of Friday's lineup currently batting over .250.

DSL: Giants 8, Rockies 1

The DSL Rockies did manage seven hits, including doubles from Carlos Herrera, Elvin  Paulino, and Jose Gomez, but they also went just 1-13 with runners in scoring position which killed any chance they had of winning this game.

Of course, it probably didn't matter anyway as the pitching was a mess. Breiling Eusebio started and lasted just one inning, allowing three runs in the process. He was relieved by Alejandro Requena who followed that up by allowed five runs on seven hits in just three innings of work. Henry Garcia deserves a positive nod though as he worked a scoreless sixth and seventh to keep his ERA on the year at 0.00.

Rookie: Grand Junction 8, Missoula 5

All the excitement here came from the offense. Forrest Wall recorded a hit, Dom Nunez went 1-4 to keep his OPS over the last ten games over 1.000, Terry McClure had a double and three RBI, Yonathan Daza went 2-4 with a home run, and Wilson Soriano led the entire Grand Junction lineup with three hits.

However, the most interesting offensive development here may have come from the guy who didn't even get a hit on Friday. Kevin Padlo went 0-2 with two walks, giving him seven walks to just three strikeouts in the nine games he's played in so far. It's of course an extremely tiny sample size, but even in a dose as small as this, that type of plate discipline for a guy who's only going to turn 18 next week is very encouraging. If his 1.093 OPS is even a slight indication of how he's going to perform in this system, Padlo will prove to be a massive heist as a fifth round selection in this year's draft.

Saturday's Probables:

Sky Sox: Pedro Hernandez (6-4, 6.30)

Drillers: Tyler Anderson (3-4, 2.78)

Nuts: Eddie Butler (Rehab)

Tourists: Konner Wade (7-7, 3.65)

Dust Devils: Logan Sawyer (0-0, 5.00)

Grand Junction Rockies: Harrison  Musgrave (0-2, 12.15)

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