SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With its Fall Stars Game scheduled for Saturday, the Arizona Fall League made it easy on the players slated to participate by shortening Friday's games to seven innings and giving most of them the day off. With the Salt River Rafters sending two members of their rotation
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With its Fall Stars Game scheduled for Saturday, the Arizona Fall League made it easy on the players slated to participate by shortening Friday's games to seven innings and giving most of them the day off. With the Salt River Rafters sending two members of their rotation to the all-star game, that meant they needed another starter.
Enter right-hander Bo Takahashi (D-backs), a starter throughout his pro career but a full-time reliever in the AFL this fall. After logging a 9.00 ERA in six bullpen appearances for Salt River, he threw three shutout innings in an 8-3 victory over the Surprise Saguaros. Though he battled his control, throwing just 20 of 41 pitches for strikes and issuing three walks, the Saguaros had difficulty squaring up his pitches and managed just one hit.
"I started the whole year, so it feels good to get back on the mound at the start of the game," Takahashi said. "The routine is really different, but I have fun relieving, so it's a great experience."
Takahashi operated at 90-91 mph, typical fastball velocity for him. His changeup was effective, and he also mixed in a slider and curveball. Because he doesn't have a plus pitch, Takahashi must locate his pitches well to succeed, which he did while posting a 4.03 ERA with a 130/30 K/BB ratio in 120 2/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A during the regular season.
Signed in 2013 out of Brazil, Takahashi pitched for his country in a World Baseball Classic qualifier in 2017, calling it the best experience in his life. He's trying to become the sixth Brazilian to reach the big leagues, following Yan Gomes, Andre Rienzo, Paulo Orlando, Thyago Vieira and Luiz Gohara, all of whom made it earlier this decade.
"Every year, baseball in Brazil gets bigger and bigger," Takahashi said. "Now that MLB has an academy down in Brazil, that helps a lot too. Baseball is getting way better right now."
Right fielder Sam Hilliard (Rockies) snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the third inning off right-hander Matt Eckelman (Pirates), and first baseman Jake Noll (Nationals) broke the game open with a three-run shot in the fifth against righty Grant Gavin (Royals). Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado was on hand to watch his cousin, Rafters third baseman Josh Fuentes (Rockies), who went 2-for-4.
Salt River improved to 13-8 and stretched its lead in the East Division to 3 1/2 games with nine remaining. Surprise dropped to 8-13, tied for the worst record in the Fall League and seven games behind the Peoria Javelinas in the West.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.