The Diamond- Lake Elsinore, California
Almost exactly a year ago, San Diego Padres right-handed pitcher Jacob Nix made his major league debut at PETCO Park as he tossed six scoreless innings.
362 days, a UCL strain, and a stint on the injured list (IL) later, Nix found himself somewhere different— 75 miles up the road at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, home of the Storm, the Padres’ Single-A affiliate, on a rehab assignment. But if Wednesday night’s performance was any indication, the 23-year-old righty may be back with the big league club sooner, rather than later.
Nix, whose elbow injury landed him on the IL in late March, looked strong in his third rehab outing, throwing 4 1/3 innings while surrendering zero earned runs with seven strikeouts and just one walk in a matchup against the San Jose Giants (53-63).
Almost immediately, however, Nix was forced to work his way out of trouble. After retiring Giants’ centerfielder Heliot Ramos on a soft ground ball to begin the game, he surrendered a walk and a single. A pair of strikeouts, both of the swinging variety, though, would end the inning.
Following the opening frame; Nix settled in. He proceeded to retire the next six San Jose batters in order by way of three more strikeouts, two groundouts, and a pop fly. His efficient trip through the Giants’ lineup would end in the fourth, and that would be where the last bout of trouble would begin for the former major leaguer. After inducing a pop up from San Jose first baseman Dalton Combs, Nix proceeded to hit third baseman David Villar with a 3-1 pitch. Four pitches later, it appeared that he was well on his way to setting down the Giants without further incident with a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but the third strike of the aforementioned at-bat skipped away from Storm catcher Luis Campusano, allowing Villar to advance to second base. Campusano’s throw to second on the play, however, bounced past Lake Elsinore shortstop Gabriel Arias into center field, sending Villar to third. San Jose quickly took advantage of the defensive miscue, plating Villar on the following pitch with a single up the middle by right fielder Sandro Fabian, moving the score to 1-0 in favor of the Giants, one of just two hits Nix surrendered on the evening. After the score, Nix restored order, ending the inning by notching his seventh and final strikeout of the game.
Nix took the mound to begin the top of the fifth inning, successfully retiring the lone batter that he faced with a ground out before Lake Elsinore manager Tony Tarasco removed him from the game once he had reached his 65 pitch limit for a start. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 1 BB. Throughout the outing, his fastball sat between 90 and 92 MPH.
Tarasco assessed Nix’s start after the game.
“He had a great outing,” Tarasco said. “It’s a coin flip with a guy — even if he’s got his great stuff — when he’s on his way back. You see a lot of guys get hit; you see guys throw well. I thought he did a great job keeping them at bay the whole night. Whenever he got himself into a situation he never panicked, he got himself out of it.”
Tarasco mentioned that Nix’s outing provided a lot for his young pitching staff to learn from.
“There’s a lot to take away from each individual big leaguer that passes through,” Tarasco said. “You take away Nix’s ability to be cold, to be really steel about his nerves, never showing paranoia, never panicking. Just making, delivering pitches, almost very robotic. We don’t wanna take away emotion when guys pitch, but we wanna be a little bit steady.”
His solid effort on the mound was met with a quiet night at the plate from his teammates. Though the Storm matched San Jose’s hit total with six, they were unable to score in the game, eventually being dealt a 2-0 shutout loss by the third-place Giants after centerfielder Heath Quinn added on in the sixth with a solo home run to left field.
To Tarasco, his team’s lack of offense may have had to do with their approach at the plate. “I thought that we definitely could have been a little more patient at the beginning part of the ballgame,” Tarasco said. “We did hit some balls right at them if they go through we might be in a different situation. They beat us tonight.”
The loss moves Lake Elsinore’s overall record to 53-63. Their next six games will be on the road at Inland Empire and Lancaster before they return home on Friday, August 16 at 7 p.m.