Collmenter doesn't miss a beat in AFL debut
D-backs prospect tosses three shutout innings in Scorpions' win
Josh Collmenter, coming off one of the finest seasons by a D-backs pitching prospect, showed no signs of slowing down in his Arizona Fall League debut Wednesday.
Collmenter allowed two hits over three scoreless innings and Orioles prospect Ryan Adams knocked in four runs as the Scottsdale Scorpions rolled to a 9-1 victory over the Peoria Saguaros.
"It was good to be out there, get the first inning out of the way," Collmenter said. "You just have to get used to playing again. I'm used to having a couple months off during the offseason, so this was kind of a chance to get into the flow of things again."
The Central Michigan University product fanned one and walked one, throwing 27 of 40 pitches for strikes. The solid start came about six weeks after his last regular-season Minor League appearance for Double-A Mobile.
"I've been throwing a little at home. It's taken me a couple weeks to get ready since I've been out," said Collmenter, who started Game 1 of the Southern League semifinals on Sept. 9. "I felt pretty confident going into this. My stuff felt good, I threw a couple bullpens, so it wasn't a big shock getting out there."
The 24-year-old right-hander issued a two-out walk in the first, worked a 1-2-3 second and pitched around a pair of singles in the third after the Scorpions staked him to a 4-0 lead in the top of the frame.
"Everything felt good, the fastball was coming out the way I wanted, I was throwing strikes and letting them put the ball in play," Collmenter said. "I watched last night and seeing how aggressive everyone was, I knew I had to make them hit my pitches. Sure enough, they came out swinging, so I was able to use off-speed stuff to get some ground balls. It was pretty much my game plan, so it was nice."
Collmenter's stock continued to rise in 2010 as the D-backs bumped him from Class A Advanced Visalia all the way to Triple-A for a stretch. He finished the season at Mobile, combining to go 14-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 25 starts.
The mustachioed righty's numbers in the Southern League were especially impressive -- 8-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 73 over 79 1/3 innings.
"I was happy with how everything went," he said. "Going back to High-A to start the year, I didn't want to fall into the mind-set that maybe they were passing me up. I wanted to just go and have a good time, I knew this would be a big year, that I'd maybe get to Double-A. The way it turned out, it made it a lot of fun. I got to be in a lot of clubhouses and meet different guys and play some playoff baseball in a good league."
One of the memorable oddities of his breakout season came in early May, when he won California League Pitcher of the Week honors with Visalia, then -- promoted two levels -- won the same award in the Pacific Coast League the following week.
"Looking back, I was happy to put up those kind of numbers," he said. "I knew if I got to Double-A I'd have an outside shot of coming [to the AFL] this year, so that helped get myself on the map."
Sure enough, Collmenter finds himself enduring 99-degree heat in Arizona, a state in which he'd like to spend most of 2011 if things go right. He, like every other prospect in the Fall League, knows it's a chance to impress the front office while facing some elite talent.
"Hopefully, I'll come out here and prove to those guys I can have success," he said. "I'm not changing my game plan up. I know I'll face a good lineup day in and day out, you're on top of your game. I need to prove I can pitch against these guys and set myself to up to see what will happen."
Collmenter said it was exciting to see some of his Minor League teammates join the D-backs this season. With time already spent at Triple-A, a solid AFL showing could lead to bigger opportunities in Spring Training.
"We have some new management coming in, so a lot of things are wide-open," he said. "To see guys get called up is a lot of fun -- you could be that close, it's a call away. So this is an exciting time."
The AFL is viewed as a chance for prospects to work on their games without much pressure. Collmenter, the subject of a "Mustache Awareness Night" back in Class A in 2008, hopes to further relieve the stress.
"I like to have a good time and keep things loose, so it's been a lot of fun," he said. "You see all types of personalities. I'm feeling everyone out and getting used to it, but you're with [new teammates] every day, so you get to know them, where they're from and you kind of come together as a team. It's fun. It's very laid back and we're just having fun playing some good ball."
Further bonding may occur next week when Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, is expected to make his debut with Scottsdale.
According to Collmenter, the clubhouse chatter already has begun.
"There's been a little talk, some of the Nationals guys, I guess, found out and I've heard some jokes going around about the eye black," he laughed. "But it'll be a good chance for that kid. There's a lot of veterans here who've been up to Triple-A or the Majors, so hopefully he comes in and absorbs as much information as he can from players and coaches to further his career. The sky's the limit for him, so it'll be a good opportunity for him."
NOTES: Adams hit a two-run homer in the eighth, a day after he singled in the go-ahead run in a 4-3 victory over the Saguaros. ... Giants 2B Charlie Culberson, who went 3-for-4 in his debut Tuesday, went deep in the sixth. ... Twins CF Ben Revere drove in the lone run for Peoria. ... Padres RHP Erik Davis started for the Sags and was charged with four runs -- one earned -- on five hits over 2 2/3 innings. He threw 57 pitches but did not walk a batter. ... The Nationals said Harper will join Scottsdale on Tuesday. It's expected he will make his AFL debut the following day. As a taxi squad member, Harper will work out, travel and sit in the dugout during games. But he's only eligible to play twice a week.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.