FORT WAYNE – For such a tall man, Walker Weickel carries similarly high expectations.
Viewed as one of the TinCaps’ better pitching prospects entering this season, Weickel has so far fallen short of that potential.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander endured his worst moment yet Friday, giving up nine earned runs on 12 hits – both season-highs by a TinCaps starter – in a 10-3 loss to South Bend in front of 5,722 at Parkview Field.
He was behind in counts and up in the zone, TinCaps manager Michael Collins said. He made a couple great pitches and then tried to throw it again. That next one wasn’t quite as great, a little over the plate, up or whatever it was. They put good swings on him.
Weickel (1-4) struck out five, walked two, hit a batter and had a wild pitch in 5 2/3 innings. He threw 57 of 92 pitches for strikes.
Selected in the first round of the 2012 supplemental draft, Weickel, 20, continues to struggle with the development of his curveball and changeup.
Pitching with a 7.81 ERA, Weickel’s teammates know he is better than that.
When he’s on his game, he’s pretty untouchable, and there’s nothing you can do about it, said Ryan Miller, who caught Weickel before leaving in the fifth with an injury to his jaw.
Miller said he and Weickel occasionally found themselves at odds with plate umpire Josh Root.
There were some questionable calls that could have changed situations, Miller said. Sometimes, that’s baseball. You don’t get the calls you need. That could be frustration on his part and mine. Dumb pitches after that when we’re not thinking clearly.
Weickel breezed through the first inning on eight pitches. With two outs in the second, things went awry, as South Bend’s Michael Perez crushed an RBI double to right-center field on a fastball just below the waist. Zach Esquerra scored him by singling on a pitch at the belt and over the plate.
The TinCaps (11-16) could not keep up.
The Silver Hawks (16-12) finished with 17 hits, six for extra bases, and received five solid innings from Jose Martinez, a top prospect in the Diamondbacks’ organization. He gave up two runs on five hits, working out of jams.
He had some great stuff, Collins said. The velocity was there. Hitters’ reactions suggested there was good life to it, as well. We had opportunities we didn’t cash in on.
Fort Wayne loaded the bases with one out in the third and came up with only Dustin Peterson’s RBI groundout.
Miller homered leading off the fourth for his first professional long ball, but the TinCaps stranded two.
Dane Phillips popped out in the fifth after Fernando Perez’s two-out double.
Perez hit his third homer in the eighth.
The TinCaps plan to stay patient with Weickel, who allowed two homers.
It’s inconsistency, Collins said. That creeps in. There’s a little bit mental of going through that learning experience.