Dodgers prospects combine on High-A no-no

July 24th, 2021
Left to right, catcher Carson Taylor poses with pitchers Jacob Cantleberry, Cameron Gibbens, Clayton Beeter and Bobby Miller.Austin Chubb

At this point last year, Bobby Miller was heading to the Dodgers’ alternate training site, fresh off signing for $2.2 million as the 2020 29th overall pick. Around the same time, Cameron Gibbens was throwing into a net in his backyard at home in Australia, envisioning what it might be like to face Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton some day.

On Friday, the pair played big roles in a piece of High-A Great Lakes history.

Miller tossed five innings, Gibbens pitched the final frame and the two combined with opener Clayton Beeter and reliever Jacob Cantleberry on a no-hitter during the Loons’ 14-0 win over Lake County at Classic Park on Friday.

The feat served as the first no-no in the 15-year history of Great Lakes, which has served as both a Low-A and High-A affiliate for the Dodgers since 2007, and the fifth in High-A Central this season.

“I didn't know about that, but it's very humbling,” Miller said of the Loons first during a phone call from the clubhouse. “This is the right team to do it though. We’ve got a special group of guys here. I feel really good about that.”

Beeter, the 66th overall pick last year, served as the opener as he’s done for all but one of his 18 appearances in his first full season. The 22-year-old right-hander retired six of the seven batters he faced, working around a leadoff walk by Bryan Lavastida to open the second frame.

“That got the adrenaline going right away,” Miller said. “You see Clayton Beeter go up there tonight, having really, really, really good stuff. So after those two innings, I'm going to try keep it going, keep the team's energy. There's nothing better than an opener like that.”

Taking the ball out of the bullpen for just the third time in 13 appearances, Miller served as the bulk pitcher for the Loons on Friday and ended up setting a new career high with his five frames. He was nearly perfect as well with his only blemish being another free pass to Lavastida in the seventh. Before that, the 6-foot-5 right-hander had retired 14 straight Captains. After getting Victor Nova down swinging to strand Lavastida, Miller finished with seven strikeouts, another new career high.

Though he’s yet to allow more than three earned runs in an outing this season and finished the night with a 2.03 ERA on the season and 53 total strikeouts through 44 1/3 innings, the Dodgers' No. 5 prospect had sensed he was trending in the wrong direction as his first full campaign wore on. The solution: hit the books. He asked pitching coach Ryan Dennick for the Lake County lineup earlier in the week and spent even more time before Friday studying the Captains, both their tendencies and their reactions to facing his fellow Loons.

“Looking at the spots they hit best, looking at the spots they aren’t so great in,” said Miller, who typically works in the mid-90s and throws a plus slider alongside an average changeup. “Looking at a certain type of bat path. Say he has a horizontal bat path, that tells me I can get under the bat. Different swings, different kinds of players, knowing what those are and sticking with what I know.”

Cantleberry made quick work of Lake County in the eighth, retiring all three batters he faced on 18 pitches (12 strikes).

Even as the Loons offense tacked on more offense with six runs in the ninth, including four on a grand slam by Carson Taylor (who caught all nine innings of the no-hitter), the club still turned to one of its best-performing arms in Gibbens, who just pitched two days prior, for the final frame in hopes of sealing off the franchise’s first no-no.

“My personal thing is to lean into the adrenaline for sure,” said the 6-foot-8 right-handed reliever, sounding a bit like his fellow countryman Liam Hendriks. “I’m someone that likes to get amped up before going in because it gives every little pitch a little more conviction. … I do like the feeling we always search for. That adrenaline, that gets turned into focus, and then usually, I do a lot better.”

Those nerves almost got the best of Gibbens as he walked Will Brennan with one out and then took Brayan Rocchio to a 3-0 count one batter later. He ended up striking out Rocchio on seven pitches and got Jose Tena to pop out to first baseman Justin Yurchak in foul ground to seal the no-hitter.

“It was just a pop fly, and I wasn’t sure if it would stay in the stadium,” said Gibbens, who signed in January 2020 after an impressive run in the Australian Baseball League. “I wasn’t ready for it. When I saw Yurchak catch the ball, I thought, ‘Oh wow, that really happened.’”

Manager Austin Chubb collected the final-out ball and lineup card to take back with the Loons when they return to Dow Diamond next week. Beeter, Miller, Cantleberry and Gibbens may be just getting their Dodgers careers started, but their place in one affiliate’s history is already secure.

“That kind of stuff is what you live for,” Gibbens said. “Coming into a situation like this, I love that.”