Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres prospect hitting for Fort Wayne TinCaps

Esteury Ruiz in Midwest League action. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres put the finishing touches on their instructional league season by hosting their third annual showcase game against Texas Rangers’ prospects at Petco Park. The game, newly christened the Don Welke On Deck Classic, ended with the Texas Rangers defeating the Padres 5-3, in a game that was played in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 6,743 fans.

Padres righty Reggie Lawson got things off to a stellar start, striking out the side in the first. Even more intriguing was how he did it, mixing his mid-90’s fastball with a new pitch — a slider.

“[The slider] is a new pitch that I have been working on this whole instructs,” said Lawson postgame. “It came in late in the season and it’s just something that can get off my fastball a little bit.

“I came to instructs to work on the slider and I wanted to throw it on a big stage and see what it does and just have confidence in it — that’s how you build trust in it; you just throw it.”

San Diego took an early lead in the first on an RBI double by Tucupita Marcano, who drove a fastball the other way into the left field to score second baseman Xavier Edwards. Marcano was thrown out trying to advance to third on a ball that briefly got away on the throw back to the infield.

The Padres had a chance to do more damage in the first as Josh Naylor walked and Owen Miller, who played first base for the night, followed with a sharp single. But catcher Luis Torrens struck out looking to end the threat.

Texas took the lead in the second, as they generated some hard contact off of Lawson. Top ten Rangers prospect Anderson Tejada led off the inning with a single. Lawson followed with a poorly-timed walk, his only one of the nighte . Third baseman Diosbel Arias then lined an RBI single into left-center and Texas got another run on a sacrifice fly. Lawson bounced back with two more scoreless frames, punching out the final two batters he faced.

The 21-year-old displayed fantastic stuff, mostly going with his fastball and slider, while mixing in a few curves and a couple of changeups. His fastball was consistently 94-95 MPH, touching 96 on a few occasions, with his slider hitting 84 fairly consistently. He finished up throwing four innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs while walking one and striking out seven. The atmosphere led to a little extra juice on Lawson’s heater.

“It’s Petco. The crowd, being at Petco again — that’s mostly where it came from.”

San Diego took the lead back in the bottom-half of the second when designated hitter Esteury Ruiz crushed a mammoth two-run homer to center field that cleared 400 feet. Ruiz, finished his second appearance in the On Deck Classic 1-for-4.

“My approach in that at-bat was just to work the count. I tried to work his pitch count a little bit,” said Ruiz through interpreter Danny Sanchez. “I think he threw me one that was a little bit outside of my zone, so I waited for him to come into my zone and I was able to connect on it.”

Michel Baez followed Lawson for three solid innings. The one run he allowed came after a leadoff walk in the sixth inning and tied the game.

The Rangers took the lead for good in the eighth inning, after hard-throwing right-hander Dauris Valdez hit a batter, then allowed a long home run that sealed up the win for the Rangers. The Padres had won the previous two installments of the On Deck Game.

Notes and Statistics

  • Outfielder Josh Naylor was not listed on the initial instructional league roster, but was added to the traveling party from Peoria late. Naylor went 1-for-2 at the plate and chipped in with an outfield assist. He was replaced in the middle innings by Grant Little.
  • Infielder Tucupita Marcano had a fantastic game, going 2-for-3 with a double and two walks. He worked deep into counts and smoked a ball into the left field corner. He had the best at-bats of the evening and looked fine at third base. Our AZL Position Player of the year is already generating big-time buzz.
  • Outfielder Edward Olivares singled and drew three walks. He had just a 5% walk rate with the Storm this season drawing multiple walks in just one game all year.
  • Baez’s velocity topped out at 94 MPH, but he overmatched hitters and struck out four in his three innings of work.
  • RHP Andres Muñoz pitched the ninth and hit 102 MPH on his final pitch of the inning. He threw his fastball for nine of his 10 pitches, none below 99. We talked to him earlier in the season about his development as a strike-thrower.

Subscribers can check out more news and notes from the game and instructs, and we’ll have more coverage coming. We’ll also pick up our end-of-year wrap-ups with Fort Wayne next week. If you’re not already subscribing and want to access all of our content, now’s a great time to join!

Posted by Kevin Charity

Kevin Charity has written for MadFriars since 2015 and has had work featured on Fox Sports San Diego. He is a lifelong San Diego native and is looking forward to seeing the current wave of prospects thrive in San Diego.

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