The TinCaps' pitching staff added two new members Friday night and moved one player back into an old role. There was also some expected news that was finally made official. Here is an update on Fort Wayne pitching and what it means going forward:
- Erik Sabrowski on 7-day IL: Sabrowski was arguably Fort Wayne's best pitcher from mid-June until mid-July. The 23-year-old left-hander with the hammer curveball had a 1.86 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 29 innings across eight appearances (three starts) for the TinCaps. He had not pitched since July 24, however, and manager Anthony Contreras had said about 10 days ago that Sabrowski likely wouldn't be back for the foreseeable future, noting that the injury, on which Contreras declined to provide specifics, was "not good." It's possible at this point, with less than a month to go in the regular season, that Sabrowski does not pitch again this year. He's coming off Tommy John surgery, so even if he could theoretically get back on the mound, the Padres will likely be cautious with him.
- Gabe Mosser starting: Sabrowski's was one of several spots in the rotation the TinCaps have needed to plug in recent weeks. They've mostly done that with call-ups from Low-A Lake Elsinore – Connor Lehmann, Noel Vela and Carlos Guarate fit that description – but when Moises Lugo was promoted to Double-A San Antonio earlier in the week, the TinCaps turned to a familiar face. Lugo's turn in the rotation, which would have come tonight, was listed as TBD for most of the week, but Friday the TinCaps announced that Gabe Mosser would make his return to the rotation in this matchup against the West Michigan Whitecaps. Mosser, 25, was a starter early in the season, going 3-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts) before going on the shelf with an undisclosed injury in mid-July. He missed a month, but returned last week to make a couple of one-inning appearances out of the bullpen as the TinCaps worked him back slowly. He looked strong, giving up only two hits without a walk or a run in those two relief innings and tonight he got the nod to start. Contreras had said at the end of last week that he was optimistic Mosser might get to start by the end of the season, so this is something of an acceleration of the timeline, although it's likely he won't go particularly deep into the game anyway and a two-inning start is not much different from a two-inning relief appearance, at least in terms of taxation on the arm.
- RHP Kevin Kopps promoted to Fort Wayne: This is one of the more exciting promotions the TinCaps have gotten from the lower levels this season. Kopps, the first 2021 draftee to play for Fort Wayne, comes up from the Arizona Complex League, where he was laughably dominant, striking out 10 in 4 2/3 scoreless innings over four appearances. Kopps was a third-round pick in the 2021 draft and it's easy to see why: in his final season as a pitcher at Arkansas, he went 12-1 with an 0.90 ERA in 89 2/3 innings, striking out 131 against only 18 walks (for you math whizzes out there, that's 7.3 strikeouts per walk) and picking up 11 saves as the best reliever in college baseball. For his effort, he won the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Fangraphs has Kopps as the 28th-best prospect in San Diego's farm system, which is a lofty perch for a reliever, and he might be higher if it weren't for the fact he's had some arm injuries in the past, including Tommy John surgery. Kopps made his TinCaps debut Friday and pitched a scoreless inning, striking out a batter and giving up a hit. The 24-year-old right-hander's best pitch is a devastating slider that Fangraphs says would be plus in the major leagues right now. He also utilizes a 90-93 mph fastball and a work-in-progress curveball. The TinCaps have been going closer-by-committee since Carter Loewen and Jose Geraldo were placed in the Injured List, but Kopps could very well seize the role.
- RHP Chase Walter promoted to TinCaps: The TinCaps got some further bullpen reinforcement with the promotion of the 23-year-old Walter from Low-A Lake Elsinore. Walter doesn't have the prospect pedigree of Kopps, but he has been stellar with the Storm, posting a 2.28 ERA in 23 appearances with a ridiculous 52 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. He also has 15 walks at the lower level, which isn't ideal, but also isn't unmanageable. Fangraphs ranked him the No. 31 prospect in the Padres farm system before he'd even thrown an official pro pitch and prospect writer Eric Longenhagen had this to say about the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Walter: "Walter sat 96-98 (mph) out of the bullpen during minor league spring training. His breaking ball shape varied pretty significantly, looking like a lateral slider sometimes and a power overhand curveball at others. Regardless of its shape, Walter’s breaking ball bent in at 84-87, and the ones that had more of a curveball look to them were plus. He looks like a potential quick-moving relief piece." Between Kopps and Walter, it appears the TinCaps have added two of the premium relievers in the San Diego farm system for the season's stretch run.