SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Viewed as one of the more exciting pitching prospects in Oakland’s system, Jeff Criswell looked the part Friday in his Arizona Fall League debut.
The Athletics' No. 14 prospect gave up two runs over 3 2/3 innings, but pitched better than his line score indicated as Mesa topped Surprise, 9-3 at Surprise Stadium.
“There are always going to be a couple pitches you want to have back, but for the most part I was able to throw my off-speed for strikes and they played off my fastball,” he said.
Criswell got off to a fast start, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced; however, the University of Michigan product got into a bit of trouble in the fourth, as the first two batters got hits, and he walked the third to load the bases.
The jam did give the 2020 second-round pick a chance to work his way out of trouble, and he responded with a strikeout and induced a sacrifice fly before being lifted.
“Those are definitely tough situations, but good spots to be in,” Criswell said. “You’ve got to be able to work out of the stretch and get guys out. It was definitely good experience to get the chance to try to work out of a jam.”
After missing the bulk of the season with arm troubles, Criswell took a positive step in his development with the Fall League debut. He threw 41 of 65 pitches for strikes to turn in his longest outing as a professional so far.
The 22-year-old sat in the mid-90s with his fastball and was able to use both his slider and changeup to generate five strikeouts and five groundball outs. The sac fly, hit on his final pitch of the game, was the lone out recorded through the air.
In the regular season, Criswell threw just 12 innings with High-A Lansing, striking out 12 and yielding six runs.
“It was good to get back toward the end of the season and deal with some of that adversity and understand that injuries happen,” he said. “But it’s about the work you put in during the rehab and being able to get yourself back on the field. It obviously wasn’t an ideal way to start my first season in professional baseball, but I was glad I was able to work my way back to the mound.”
Rutledge got off to a shaky start as Jonah Bride (A's), who finished 3-for-5, hammered a pitch 104 mph into the gap for an RBI double. Four of the first five batters reached and Rutledge gave up a pair of runs in the opening frame, but he was able to settle down and retire the next eight batters.
“These hitters are great,” Criswell said. “We’ve been able to put up quite a few runs these past couple games. It’s been fun to pitch with a lead.”