Until three starts ago then Clearwater Threshers pitcher Felix Paulino was mostly a middle reliever out of the bullpen. His future was a bit uncertain. A starter in his previous four years in the Phillies system, the 23-year-old, Dominican has an uncertain future with the Phillies. Now in his fifth season, he will be eligible for the Rule Five draft in December if the Phillies do not add him to the 40-man roster.
After a couple of recent strong spot starts with the Threshers, Paulino looked like he was ready for more. It so happened a couple of Reading starting pitchers were placed on the disabled list last week and the need for a starter was apparent.
The Phillies minor league department had to notice that Paulino was ready for something more than sitting out in the Threshers bullpen not quite knowing what his role would be from week to week. With the need for a starter in Reading, Paulino was summoned.
It would not be an easy assignment, Felix in his AA debut would be facing the best hitting team in the Eastern League with the highest OPS, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. They have the best hitter in all the minor leagues in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He came into the game hitting .407 coming back from an injury. And with the wind blowing out to left, it was home run conditions for right-handed bats in Reading.
Paulino retired Guerrero Jr. on a long drive which was caught by Roman Quinn on the track in center in the first inning. But the next time up in the third, Guerrero hit a 3-0 fastball out of the park to left. It would be the only two runs Paulino would give up.
In Paulino’s final inning of work in the fifth inning, he got Guerrero Jr. to hit a pop fly ball caught by Adam Haseley in right on a 2-2 pitch on the outside corner of the plate. Watch Guerrero’s swing on the pitch below.
With the Phillies minor league brass watching on last night, Paulino pitched the most important five innings of his Phillies career and passed the test. He allowed four hits and struck out six to get the win in his first AA appearance.
Thanks to home runs by right-handed power bats Damek Tomscha, Austin Listi and Deivi Grullon, Paulino left with a 7-2 lead. The Fightin Phils would go on to win, 9-3. Last night Felix got his chance to show what he can do and he got the job done. Let’s see what the future holds for him.