Daniel becomes first AFL pitcher to complete 6 innings in a start

October 15th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Most Arizona Fall Leaguers dream of making the Majors. has already seen the spotlight of The Show, and on Saturday, he sure pitched like it.

The Angels right-hander struck out 10 and allowed one earned run on two hits and two walks over six frames to lead Scottsdale to a 3-1, seven-inning win over Peoria in the middle game of a tripleheader at Goodyear Ballpark.

In the process, Daniel became the first AFL pitcher to complete six innings in a start this season as well as the first to reach double-digits in strikeouts in a single outing. He needed only 80 pitches to get through those six frames, throwing 52 of them for strikes.

Setting those Fall League highs is especially notable for a pitcher who didn’t make his season debut until Aug. 1 due to a right shoulder strain and only had one outing of six innings or longer over 10 starts between the Minors and Majors.

“Having the injury and missing part of the season, I’m trying to get out here and get as many innings as I can,” Daniel said. “[I’m working on] lowering the pitch count, throwing a lot of strikes, being in the zone, trying to get through five or six and hopefully getting up there closer to 100 pitches by the end of this and continuing to get the work in.”

Since returning from the IL two months ago, Daniel has shown a four-pitch mix with a 92-94 mph fastball, mid-70s curveball, low-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. That velo is up a notch from 2022 when he was closer to the 90-91 mph range while with Triple-A Salt Lake, and as encouraging as that’s been coming off his shoulder issues, he especially leaned on the curve late in Thursday’s gem.

“Honestly, my legs were kind of gone,” Daniel said. “It’s hot out here. After the fifth inning, I felt like the fastball still had some life, but guys had seen it two or three times in the order, and I just wanted to keep them off-balance and continue to throw the breaking ball.”

It’s the diversity of that pitch mix that helped the 26-year-old shoot from Rookie-level Arizona Complex League rehab outings in August to the Majors a month later. Daniel worked well coming out of the bullpen for the Halos down the stretch, giving up only three earned runs over his three appearances (12 1/3 innings) but his 9/9 K/BB ratio showed room for growth.

The high of the experience alone is a big factor in Daniel’s early success in the Fall League, where he now has a 0.90 ERA with 15 K’s and only three walks through his first two starts (10 innings).

“Figuring out that your stuff can play at that level is a huge confidence booster,” Daniel said. “I had some success while I was up there. Being able to take that confidence -- knowing there are still hitters and hitting is a hard game -- [is big]. If you can be in the zone with good stuff, you’ll have success.”

Daniel’s impressive outing Saturday was all the more noteworthy because it came against a Javelinas lineup that has hit .302 as a team and is the only Fall League club with more than 100 runs scored (108). Then again, having a starter that has already faced the Cleveland Guardians, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics is a pretty good way of cooling even the AFL’s hottest bats.

“They had good approaches,” Daniel said. “Breaking balls early, they were laying off of for the most part. There weren’t too many free swingers in their lineup. I think they all had a pretty good plan, so I had to continue to stay on the attack and throw strikes and let my stuff do its thing.”