Right-hander Nathan Karns threw an 0-2 fastball by the first batter he faced in his Double-A debut tonight for the Harrisburg Senators. New Britain Rock Cats' center fielder Antoan Richardson, a 29-year-old in the Minnesota Twins' system with nine major leagues games with the Atlanta Braves in 2011 on his resume, K'd swinging in the first at bat of the game.
Karns, 25, the Washington Nationals' 2012 Pitcher of the Year in 2012, was an '09 12th Round pick out of Texas Tech University. The 6'3'', 230 lb right-hander was (11-4) between Hagerstown and Potomac in his second pro season last summer, with a 2.03 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 21 BB (4.26 BB/9) and 61 Ks (12.38 K/9) in 11 games and 44.1 IP for the Low-A Suns and a 2.26 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 26 BB (3.27 BB/9) and 87 Ks (10.93 K/9) in 13 starts and 71.2 IP for the High-A P-Nats.
Karns was added to the Nats' 40-Man Roster this past winter to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, so he was in camp with the Nationals early in Spring Training, throwing 3.2 IP in which he gave up six hits and seven runs, just one of them earned while walking four and striking out four in Grapefruit League action.
After the strikeout started Karns' first Double-A outing this evening, he issued a two-out walk in the first, but finished a scoreless inning after 18 pitches in the Senators' home, Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, PA.
23-year-old Twins' outfield prospect Daniel Ortiz took Karns deep on a 1-2 fastball up in the zone that went out to right field in spite of a determined effort by Senators' right fielder Steven Souza, who hit the fence hard in hot pursuit but had no chance. Karns retired the next three batters in order in what ended up a 20-pitch second inning that had him at 38 pitches total after two.
Destin Hood, the Nats' 23-year-old, '08 2nd Round pick, worked an eight pitch walk out of Blake Martin, a 26-year-old lefty in the Twins' system, in the Senators' second. Hood took second base on a wild pitch, third on a Steven Souza single and then scored on a double play grounder off of Justin Bloxom's bat to tie the game at 1-1 after two. Hood, who missed time with a wrist injury last season, had a .245/.301/.344 line in his first year at Double-A, with 20 doubles, three triples and three home runs in 94 games and 389 plate appearances. He's back for another go-round with the Senators this season.
A line drive to center by Antoan Richardson and a hard-hit grounder by first by 22-year-old Dominican-born shortstop Danny Santana put runners on the corners with one down in the third against Nathan Karns, who hit the next batter, Nathan Hanson, to load the bases. 24-year-old Twins' backstop prospect Josmil Pinto hit a 1-0 fastball inside of the top of Metro Bank Park's left field wall to clear the bases and make it a 4-1 game in the third. A wild pitch brought Pinto in to make it 5-1, and a four-pitch walk to the next batter brought catcher Sandy Leon out to the mound for a chat with his pitcher.
Karns' response to the trouble was to go to three-straight curves to Rock Cats' outfielder Evan Bigley, who K'd swinging for out no.2 and K no. 2 for Karns, but the next batter, Harold Garcia, absolutely crushed another 1-0 fastball not far enough inside for a two-run home run to right that made it 7-1 New Britain in the top of the third.
Karns started the third at 38 pitches, when he finally threw a full-count fastball by Rock Cats' first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez for the third strikeout in three innings pitched, he was up to 65 pitches, having given up five hits, two home runs, two walks and seven runs in the first three innings of his first Double-A start. Behind in the count often, and hit hard up in the zone, Karns still managed to impress when he did locate his pitches, breaking off a couple nice curves and throwing fastballs by a few hitters. Call this one a learning experience. Command will have to be better as the Senators' radio announcers noted.
After walking in his first at bat, 2011 Nats' 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon stepped in for a second time with runners on second and third with one out after Rendon's former Rice University teammate Rick Hague walked and went to third on a double to left by Senators' infielder Josh Johnson. Rendon was swinging 3-0, but missed a high heater and eventually walked for the second time in two at bats to load the bases for 30-year-old DH Jerad Head, who was sent to Double-A to replace injured first baseman Matt Skole today. Head K'd swinging for the second out of the inning, and Destin Hood flew to left to end the threat.
The Senators sent Nathan Karns back out for the fourth. The right-hander got the first out with one pitch on a weak grounder to short, but issued his third walk of the night to Antoan Richardson in the next at bat. Richardson tried to go first-to-third on a single to center by Danny Santana in the AB that followed, but got thrown out by Nats' OF prospect Brian Goodwin, who fired a throw to fellow 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon at third for an 8-5 putout. A two-out single by Rock Cats' first baseman Nathan Hanson ended Karns' night after 3.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 77 pitches, 48 strikes.
Brian Goodwin reached on an infield single in the Senators fifth and took second when a rushed throw from Rock Cats' pitcher Marty Popham got by first. One out later, Anthony Rendon faced Popham, New Britain's 25-year-old right-hander, striking out on a 2-2 fastball up and away. 0 for 1, 2 BB for Rendon. Destin Hood K'd swinging to end the 5th for Popham's 4th K in 2.0 IP. Anthony Rendon flew out on a first pitch fastball in his fourth at bat in the seventh, leaving the 22-year-old Nats' no.1 prospect 0 for 2 with two walks today and 3 for 17 with 5 walks and 3 Ks in 5 games so far.
Brian Goodwin was 2 for 4 tonight after a ninth inning triple off Rock Cats' lefty Nelvin Fuentes. Goodwin lined to the right-center gap and was around to third before the New Britain outfielders could get it back in. Goodwin scored to make it 9-2 on a Josh Johnson single. Anthony Rendon got another at bat, grounding into a force at second to leave him 0 for 3 with two walks tonight and 3 for 18 with five walks in five games. The Senators lost this one.
The Rock Cats won this one, running away with it, 9-1 final.