David Price made his highly-anticipated first start last night, and tonight another Rays prospect gets that shot: Mitch Talbot, who will be starting the second game of the doubleheader with Baltimore.
Talbot has appeared in one game this year, the 13-5 drubbing the Rays took at the hands on Boston on September 15th. Talbot didn't exactly help the cause, allowing 4 earned runs in 3 innings, including two home runs. Though in his defense, just about everybody was hitting home runs off Rays pitching that night.
Talbot spent the whole year at Durham(besides a 1-day call-up in August in which he did not make an appearance) and struggled greatly with his consistency from start to start in the first half of the year. He would look great one start and then just completely self-destruct the next. He finished with a rather pedestrian 4.64 ERA before the All-Star break, despite a promising 86-17 K-BB rate.
In the second half, Talbot seemed to pull everything together. Over his last 10 starts spanning 57 innings, he put up a 2.05 ERA, struck out 61, and walked 18. In one 6-start stretch, he allowed a total of 5 earned runs. Opponents hit just .241 off him in the second half, compared to .272 in the first half.
Talbot's scouting report has always been that he features a deep repertoire, but his change-up is his best secondary offering, having been named best in his team's system 4 years running(twice with Houston, twice with Tampa Bay). He also features different kinds of breaking balls and can cut his fastball.
In his appearance with Boston, he was basically getting beaten on his fastball. In his first inning of work, the two hits he allowed(Pedroia single and Youkilis HR) were on the fastball. Conversely, he got David Ortiz to ground into a fielder's choice on a slider, Lowell to ground out on a cutter, and he struck out Bay by throwing him four consecutive curveballs. He threw first-pitch strikes to all four hitters he faced that inning.
His second inning of work, he came out throwing fastballs but struggled to locate to Lowrie, walking him. He fell behind Varitek 3-0 before coming back and inducing a double-play ground ball. Then Ellsbury homered(a first-pitch fastball, just like Youkilis), he walked Crisp before getting Pedroia to fly out. It was more of the same his third inning of work.
So... what does this mean for tonight? Well, it's tough to say what exactly happened that first outing. He walked three guys, but he was getting ahead for the most part. He got beat twice for a home run on a first-pitch fastball that he laid over the plate. Both of his strikeouts were on breaking pitchers(Bay on the curveball, Varitek on a slider). He struggled to command his changeup, throwing it in the first a few times but also leaving it too high once(Youkilis hit it for a double).
For tonight, he needs to shore up command of his fastball and change. He can't lay fastballs over the plate and get away with it here, they need to be on the corners. He needs to work down in the zone with it effectively to set up the change-up. The change should be a very good weapon against lefties, but he can't over-rely on it or it's going to get figured out. I thought he actually did a pretty decent job mixing in the breaking pitches against Boston.
His curveball showed surprising bite and could be a put-away pitch. Things working in his favor: He gets ahead in the count, he's gotten the first appearance out of the way, and the Orioles aren't the Red Sox. Talbot has the stuff to pitch very effectively, he just has to locate better than he did against Boston.
Complete guess for how he does tonight: 6.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts