NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- Pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller made his Double-A debut in the Portland Sea Dog's 2-0 loss to New Britain Rock Cats, throwing a complete (albeit shortened) game in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday at New Britain Stadium. After the game, Portland manager Kevin Boles described Balcom-Miller’s start as “outstanding.”
“He had a great mound presence, a quality mix, and an aggressive approach to pitching,” Boles said. “All the reports from Salem were as advertised. He was tremendous tonight.”
Balcom-Miller allowed 2 earned runs on 7 hits in 6.0 innings pitched, striking out 4 and walking 1 while hitting a pair of batters. He threw 85 pitches, 53 for strikes, and faced a season-high 26 batters. Despite the impressive line, Balcom-Miller indicated that it was not his best night.
“I felt alright,” he said. “I didn’t really have good stuff. My fastball command wasn’t as good, and I fell behind a lot of times in the count. That didn’t help either. My changeup was working pretty well. I didn’t throw my slider too much. Overall, I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
Balcom-Miller’s fastball sat at 90-91 mph for the first five innings, and as the evening progressed, he mixed in more off-speed pitches, throwing a low-80’s changeup and a slider in the mid-to-low 80’s. All four of his strikeouts came on breaking balls.
“He threw the ball very well,” said Tim Federowicz, who was behind the plate for Balcom-Miller’s start, the first game of a doubleheader. “He commanded the bottom half of the zone, that was the biggest part. He has good sink to his fastball, a very good swing-and-miss changeup that he threw very well today. He didn’t really get into much trouble. It was impressive.”
Balcom-Miller, who had never earned an in-season promotion, said he did not know what to expect upon being called up, but would not admit to nerves. If he did feel nerves, New Britain did not take long to force him to buckle down. Balcom-Miller allowed his first Double-A hit to the leadoff batter, Steve Singleton, who worked the count full before hitting a slow roller to second baseman Oscar Tejeda’s left that he was unable to scoop cleanly. Singleton scored on a two-out Evan Bigley double that went over the head of Chih-Hsien Chiang in left field, the hardest hit ball Balcom-Miller would concede all night.
Balcom-Miller picked up his first strikeout on a changeup to open the second inning, and after leading off the third with another strikeout, pitched around a single and a hit batsman to get out of the inning with no damage.
He induced his second inning-ending double play of the evening in the fourth inning, this one a line drive behind the runner at first that led Jorge Padron right to the bag for an easy unassisted double play. Balcom-Miller’s third strikeout of the day came on an 82-mph slider that caught Daniel Rohlfing looking, and after plunking his second batter of the game, the right-hander got centerfielder Joe Benson way out in front of a changeup for his second strikeout of the fifth inning.
But Balcom-Miller ran into trouble in the sixth, as his velocity and control waned. He issued his first walk and yielded another run, this one on a ground ball under Tejeda’s glove.
Many of the aspects of his game that carried Balcom-Miller to success in A-ball carried over Tuesday. The 22-year-old kept everything down in the zone, and when he missed, he missed low.
Control became an issue late in the game, as two of Balcom-Miller’s four three-ball counts came in the sixth. He was also punished when he got behind batters. Balcom-Miller went to a two-ball count seven times in the game, and four resulted in hits.
“He had a couple 2-0, 3-1 counts that could have been avoided with first-pitch strikes,” Federowicz said.
But overall, the Portland coaching staff was impressed with his first performance.
“He did everything you need to do to be a successful pitcher at this level,” Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper said.