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April 21, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Drohan turns in another strong start as Portland rolls

4/21 Cup of Coffee:
It was an exciting day for prospect-watching, as all four starting pitchers were ranked in the system's 40 best, with three sitting among the top 20. It was a split result, with two lefties in the high minors turning in quality starts but the two right-handers in Class A both struggling. Shane Drohan (pictured) has been the story of the early season, and he turned in another start worthy of the buzz to help lead the Sea Dogs. Chris Murphy joined him with a strong outing for the WooSox. Wikelman Gonzalez and Jedixson Paez had less success, faltering in blowout losses for Greenville and Salem.


It was a much-needed rebound start for 17th-randed Chris Murphy, helping Worcester to a 2-1 series lead in Allentown. The left-hander had allowed 10 earned runs in 4 1/3 in his first two starts, but on Thursday he went six strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out five, and walking two. Murphy was granted an early lead to work with, thanks to a second-inning two-run home run off the bat of Ronaldo Hernandez. David Hamilton continued to be a sparkplug, going 1 for 3 with two walks and two stolen bases out of the leadoff spot. The two swipes give him an International League-leading 10 on the year. Ryan Fitzgerald also contributed a strong night at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. 


Shane Drohan saw his scoreless streak come to an end but otherwise continued his early 2023 breakout with another outstanding start in Portland. The 2020 fifth-round pick allowed one run on five hits across six innings to move to 3-0 on the year. He struck out a season-high eight batters against just two walks. Even the run-scoring rally did not include many hard-hit balls, as McCarthy Tatum reached on an infield single and then advanced to third on an error before scoring Reading's second-inning run. Brandon Cellucci followed Drohan, allowing a run on three hits in two innings, striking out two. Luis Guerrero earned his fourth save of the young season with a hitless ninth.

At the plate, Niko Kavadas was 2 for 4 with a double to lead the offense. It was Kavadas's first extra-base hit of the season. Alex Binelas blasted his first homer of the year, a solo shot in the fourth inning.


It was a long night for the Drive despite big nights at the plate for Marcelo Mayer and Jonathan Diaz. Mayer was 2 for 3 with two walks and an RBI, bringing him up to 9 for 20 (.450/.522/.650) over his last five games. Diaz starred in his first start of the season after his recent recall from the developmental list. The catcher was 2 for 3 with a three-run homer, scoring three runs and drawing a walk. Wikelman Gonzalez struggled in his start, failing to escape the first inning. The 21-year-old righty, currently ranked 14th in the system, surrendered six runs on four hits while issuing two walks. The only two outs he recorded were both via strikeout. The bullpen fared little better, as six hurlers combined to give up 10 runs in 7 1/3. Joe Jones had the best night of the group, giving up three hits in 2 1/3 scoreless frames, striking out two without walking a batter.


Salem fared little better than its High-A counterpart to the south. Jedixson Paez struggled and was given little help by a defense that committed four errors. Paez allowed nine runs (six earned) on 10 hits in four innings, striking out four while walking two. It marked only the second time in 15 starts since coming stateside at the start of 2022 that Paez has surrendered more than three runs. Albert Feliz submitted the lineup's only multi-hit night, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a pair of RBI. Juan Chacon tripled and walked twice as part of a 1-for-3 effort, while Roman Anthony ripped his third double of the season.


Player of the Day: After a strong look in spring training, Shane Drohan made a significant jump in the system's rankings. Through three starts he has made a case that the leap was actually a conservative one. The 24-year-old lefty was sterling again on Thursday afternoon and has been unquestionably the best-performing arm in the organization in the early going. Drohan's ERA ticked up to 0.53, and he now has 19 strikeouts in 17 innings while walking just three batters. He lines up for a good test against a strong Erie lineup in his next start.

Photo Credit: Shane Drohan by Kelly O'Connor