ALTOONA — 2023 first overall pick Paul Skenes made his Double-A debut on Saturday night, and while it didn’t go as he would’ve wanted—he was charged with four earned runs across two outs recorded—the box score doesn’t tell the whole story.
Here’s a look at what went right (and wrong) during Skenes’ first game in Altoona.
While he allowed three hits, Skenes didn’t give up hard contact in the game. Both singles he allowed were dribblers through the right side, and third baseman Jackson Glenn just missed gloving what ended up as a double down the line.
“They hit three balls through the infield under 90 miles an hour,” Skenes said. “Nine times out of ten I feel like those are outs. They just landed three of them. Obviously two walks are a killer.”
In regard to those walks, Paul Skenes appeared to have gotten squeezed at the plate. A number of close calls went against him that perhaps shouldn’t have. Not one to make excuses, Skenes didn’t even mention the umpires in assessing his start.
Catcher Carter Bins, who served as Skenes’ backstop, was the first member of the Curve to discuss the calls.
“Just missed a little bit out of the zone it felt like, he might’ve got squeezed a little bit,” Bins said. “But his stuff looked really good…his fastball had some good life to it, his off-speed looked good.”
Skenes’ power fastball was on display throughout his outing and he consistently sat in the upper-90s.
Despite the borderline balls, Paul Skenes did a good job of fighting back in lopsided counts. He trailed 3-1 before each of the two strikeouts he recorded.
Prior to emerging as arguably the top prospect available in this year’s draft at LSU, Skenes was introduced to college baseball elsewhere.
Skenes said that his background at the Air Force Academy, where he spent the first two years of his collegiate career, helps put things in perspective for him.
“It’s a baseball game. Why pitch scared?” Skenes said. “I think that’s probably the Air Force in me, to be honest. Like, it’s just a baseball game…I mean, I was getting ready to fly jets.”
While he’s a humble player, Skenes is also confident. His confidence shined through in describing how he attacks batters when trailing in the count.
“There’s no reason in my mind to ever nibble or pitch scared…I think it’s funny, when I get to a 3-0 count, it’s almost like a weight off my shoulders,” Skenes said. “Okay, well, the worst thing that’s gonna happen is I walk him, because I’m probably not going to give up a barrel. I trust my stuff.”
While the pitching line wasn’t pretty, Skenes still flashed what makes him the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect in hi first taste of Double-A.
His next chance on the mound will again come with Altoona. He’s scheduled to pitch on Friday, Sep. 1, when Altoona takes on the Erie SeaWolves, according to Curve manager Callix Crabbe.