Skenes notches career-high 8 K's, continues scoreless run at Triple-A

April 13th, 2024

Paul Skenes unleashed his signature four-seam fastball in the bottom of the second inning against Justice Bigbie but failed to find the strike zone, issuing the first four-pitch walk of his young professional career.

There shouldn’t have been a reason for concern at this point in the game. MLB’s No. 3 prospect, pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis, was cruising against the Toledo Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field in his third start of the season striking out four batters and allowing just one hit.

But Skenes isn’t your typical pitcher. He’s an arm that could be a centerpiece for years to come when he gets his call to The Show by the Pirates.

“If you look at those pitches, I missed a few times in a row, which shouldn’t happen,” Skenes said after Indianapolis’ 4-3 road loss to the Mud Hens. “I don't give up a four-pitch walk very often, and I don't want to give up another one all year. But sometimes you need that to hone in on your craft.”

But there isn’t time to ponder in baseball, so the 21-year-old adjusted on the fly and struck out Buddy Kennedy on four pitches to end the second inning. The righty finished with his best performance of the season, racking up a career-high eight strikeouts over 3 1/3 scoreless frames. In total, he threw 55 pitches, 36 for strikes.

Even after being taken out, the replay of giving up that rare walk crept into his mind. Skenes understands the pressure that comes with being such a highly-touted prospect. Even a minuscule play like that is something to learn from.

“I'll be able to get away with a little bit more [in Triple-A] than I will in the big leagues,” Skenes said. “I’ll have to execute a little bit differently when I get to the Majors because you can scout hitters as much as you want, but until you step in against them, there's no way to really know how your stuff is and the hitters are gonna tell you everything.”

And if there is something we’ve learned from Skenes, it’s that he is living up to the hype so far. He hasn’t given up a run through three appearances at Triple-A, accumulating 19 strikeouts, allowing just four hits with only two walks issued.

The LSU graduate is satisfied with his performance but is also working toward building up to his pitch count. His 55 pitches are the most he has tossed and his outing Friday night was the longest of his season.

He was tested by facing the top of the order for the second time. After giving up back-to-back two-out hits to Baddoo and Justyn-Henry Malloy (DET No. 7) in the third inning, the LSU product shut the door by punching out Jace Jung (DET No. 4, MLB No. 55).

The Orange County native has been seeking this challenge. While in college it was easy for him to blow through the second and even third times through the order, he is aware that professional hitters are built physically and mentally differently.

“It's fun to think through the game like that and go about attacking hitters,” Skenes said. “I really enjoy that part of the game.”

It helps that he possesses a fastball that touches triple digits, as he hit 100 mph on the radar gun 15 times. According to Statcast, Skenes threw the five fastest balls in all of Triple-A on Friday night. The quickest one registered at 101.6 mph and would have been ranked second if he threw it in an MLB game.

His flaming fastball is his headliner, but Skenes is also equipped with a changeup, slider and curveball in his arsenal and isn’t afraid to mix it up, as he tossed 30 breaking balls against Toledo.

“I'm really happy with my breaking pitches,” Skenes said. “I figured some stuff out mechanically throughout Spring Training and leading into the actual season. So I'm really comfortable with where they're at. I’m showing that I can throw them for strikes and sometimes that’s all you need to do.”