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Spencer Patton picks up eighth save as Omaha edges Nashville

05/23/2014 12:19 AM

Brian Bocock’s sacrifice fly scored Melky Mesa with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning Thursday and Class AAA Omaha beat Nashville 3-2.

The game was tied 2-2 when Mesa opened the eighth inning with a double. He took third on an errant pick-off throw. After and out, Bocock lofted a fly ball to center field and Mesa scored.

Francisley Bueno pitched a perfect eighth inning, then turned it over to Spencer Patton, who continued his fine season. The right-hander got his eighth save of the season and lowered his ERA to 0.83.

Patton’s name isn’t on a lot of prospect watch lists, but he’s had a remarkable rise through the Royals minor-league system over the last 12 months. After pitching at Rookie-Advanced in 2011 and 2012, he started last season at Class A-Advanced Wilmington. With the Blue Rocks, he was 5-2 with a 1.96 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings and was promoted to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.

In 12 games with the Naturals, he was 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He fanned 27 and walked six in 18 innings and moved up again. He pitched in the Pacific Coast League series for Class AAA Omaha, which won the title.

“He ascended through our system last year pretty rapidly with a stop in Double-A, then helped that team in Triple-A win the championship,” said J.J. Picollo, the Royals assistant general manager for scouting and player development .

“He had a great winter in Mexico (0.72 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 25 innings for Caneros de los Mochis) and he really had a great spring. He caught the eye of our major-league staff in the opportunities he got to pitch in exhibition games. He really hasn’t missed a beat since going to Triple-A this year.”

Indeed. Patton, the Royals’ 24th-round pick in the 2011 draft, has 24 strikeouts and seven walks in 20 2/3 innings. He has allowed just nine hits.

“He pounds the strike zone,” Picollo said. “He really attacks hitters with his fastball, he keeps the ball down. He’s got a lot of deception, he’s not necessarily overpowering. He does get up to 94 (mph) on occasion, but he’s going to pitch at 91, 92. There’s a lot of deception and a lot of odd swings against him. That’s a great sign. Hitters just aren’t picking up the ball. He also throws a slider that he’s able to command.”

While Patton is not on the Royals’ 40-man roster, Picollo didn’t dismiss Patton’s chances of getting a call this year to join the big-league staff.

“It’s a possibility for us if he continues to perform the way he’s performing,” Picollo said. “He is a guy we’re going to talk about with the quality that he has. One of the most important things that he does coming out of the bullpen is he does throw strikes. He’s kind of fearless in the way he attacks hitters. He has great mound presence and makes you feel comfortable out there.

“Testing him by throwing him in the back end of games is just another way that we can evaluate how ready he is for the major leagues. He’s answered the bell so far.”

Thursday’s other games

Class AA Northwest Arkansas starter Andy Ferguson took a tough loss as he allowed two runs in six innings of a 2-1 loss to San Antonio. Ferguson gave up six hits, walked three and struck out four. Catcher Juan Graterol and left fielder Ethan Chapman each had two hits.

Carolina’s three-run fourth inning was the difference in a 3-2 win at Class A-Advanced Wilmington. Shortstop Jack Lopez had two hits and scored both runs, while center fielder Bubba Starling had two hits and pushed his hitting streak to 11 games. Third baseman Hunter Dozier knocked in both runs with two sacrifice flies. Starter Daniel Stumpf, 1-7, gave up the three runs on nine hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

Class A Lexington was held to five hits in a 4-0 loss to Savannah. Starter Matt Tenuta, 2-5, gave up three runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked one. Second baseman Ramon Torres had two hits, as did outfielder Dominique Taylor.

To reach Pete Grathoff, send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff

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