It seems almost impossible, but Indianapolis Indians’ right hander Kyle Waldrop made his first career start at the Triple-A level on Wednesday night after appearing in 140 games as a reliever at that level.
Waldrop took the ball in a game at Toledo and proceeded to hold the Mud Hens to just two hits and a walk over 6.2 shutout innings en route to the 2-0 victory. In fact, the only two hits he allowed came back-to-back to start the fourth inning. Waldrop immediately induced a double-play ball to snuff the rally. He struck out three in what was his first starting assignment at any level since 2007.
A former first-round pick out of high school in 2004, Waldrop spent his first four professional seasons working almost exclusively from the rotation. While he posted excellent walk rates, Waldrop’s strikeout numbers were never impressive and neither were his results. After missing all of 2008 with injury, the Twins moved him to relief work full-time upon his return in 2009. While his strikeout rates remained low (a running theme with Twins hurlers going back several years), he did pitch well enough to make a couple of trips to the major league bullpen, appearing in 24 career games including 17 last season when he pitched to a 2.53 ERA for Minnesota.
Waldrop was signed to a minor league deal by the Pirates in December and got a Spring Training invite, but failed to make the big club out of camp. In two appearances for Indianapolis this season, Waldrop has tossed 10 scoreless innings while allowing just six hits and recording six strikeouts. He has yet to walk a batter.
Let’s keep things in perspective here: Waldrop is 27-years-old and at best he’s a middle reliever at the major league level. Even then he doesn’t strikeout near enough hitters to last all that long. His effort on Wednesday was notable, but it was also against the hapless Mud Hens, who have been among the worst-hitting clubs in pro ball this season.
Still, for a guy who hasn’t started a game at any level in more than five years, this was a pretty nice night.