Pinto keeps working on his stellar changeup

Aaron Fultz called it, “a pretty bad start” for Ricardo Pinto. And in the realm of what the right-hander has done for the Williamsport Crosscutters this year, Fultz was right.

The right-hander’s five-inning, two-run performance wasn’t up to the standards he’s set for himself this year. But the standards he has set are ridiculously high, especially for a 20-year old pitching in the United States for the first time in his career.

But the outing in a 5-1 loss to Connecticut was a battle for Pinto. Nothing about it was particularly easy as not one of his five innings were clean.

The outing also wasn’t the abomination it would seem. It was an opportunity to see just what Pinto was made out of. For just the second time this year he surrendered more than one earned run in a start, but it was only the two runs scored on Tim Remes’ fourth-inning home run.

For a pitcher who allowed seven hits, it could have been an outing which was much worse than his final line.

“He’s the ultimate competitor. He wants to be perfect out there every time,” Cutters manager Shawn Williams said following the game Friday night. “Maybe he didn’t have his best stuff, but they got guys in scoring position and he turned it up and left those guys there and gave us a chance. That’s all you can ask for.”

The idea of a pretty bad start for Pinto is relative, which is what Fultz was referring to Saturday afternoon during batting practice at Bowman Field. He has been nothing short of fantastic in the time before and after an arm injury which put him on the shelf for a month.

He was Fultz’s No. 1 pitcher coming out of extended spring training, and he would have been the opening day starter had it not been for Alejandro Arteaga being sent down to Williamsport from Lakewood days before the season started. He lived up to that billing in his first start of the season at State College where he allowed just one earned run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings. It was in his next start that he felt some tightness in his forearm and left after just three innings.

After a rough first start back in Brooklyn, Pinto was the catalyst behind nine no-hit innings from Williamsport pitching in last week’s series finale against Mahoning Valley. His six no-hit innings led the conga line of great pitching that night which included Edubray Ramos and Calvin Rayburn tossing hitless outings.

“I like to see guys when they don’t give up any hits because it means they threw pretty well,” Fultz said. “But it’s not always going to be easy. He didn’t have a good pitch (Friday against Connecticut). His change-up was OK, but his command wasn’t anywhere near where it usually is, so he had to battle back and struggle and scuffle and he still gave us a chance to win.”

Pinto’s change-up is one of the best two or three pitches on the staff. Fultz later called Pinto’s change-up a big league pitch.

It’s a plus pitch. But more aptly put, it’s a filthy pitch. It’s the perfect complement to a fastball which has topped out at 96 mph this year.

Pinto struggled to control the pitch Friday night, throwing just over half for strikes. But all four of his strikeouts came on the change-up. In his previous start against Mahoning Valley, four of his five strikeouts came on the change-up.

“It’s a plus pitch, and it has been since the first day I saw him,” Fultz said. “I think he threw 24 or 25 (Friday night) and I think it was 11 balls and 15 strikes, so that’s why I say it wasn’t good. But it was still effective. Normally it’s unhittable, and (Friday night) he threw some balls in there with it so it made it human, I guess.”