Felipe Paulino made his first rehab start for the Omaha Storm Chasers on Thursday night and, as could be expected, there were positives and negatives about his performance in which he gave up two earned runs on five hits and a walk in three innings. He struck out four.
Paulino is 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery. The 29-year-old righty made two starts for Double-A NW Arkansas earlier this year, going 0-2 with a 2.25 ERA in eight innings of work. But there was a large gap in those appearances. He made his first start for the Naturals on June 11 and experienced a setback due to soreness and stiffness in his back. He didn’t make his next start for the team until August 3.
The good news is, Paulino routinely hit 95-96 mph on the radar gun in Omaha on Thursday and he maintained his velocity throughout his three innings of work. The Royals assigned a 65-70 pitch limit and he ended up throwing 62.
The bad news is, he got away from his fastball as the outing progressed, especially in the third inning. After walking the leadoff hitter and then giving up a single, he got ahead of Sacramento third baseman Daric Barton, 0-2, and then went after him with a 95 mph fastball. Barton turned on the pitch and the lefty lined it into right field. That, along with a couple of other pitches the River Cats got around on, seemed to shake Paulino’s confidence. Omaha manager Mike Jirschele spoke about that after the game.
"They squared up a few fastballs early and he went away from his fastball, and he needs to use it more," Jirschele said. "He didn’t use it nearly enough. It’s different here [in Triple-A] because they are more aggressive. Anything around the plate, they are hacking. He mentioned that coming off the field one time."
Jirschele went on to say he didn’t think Paulino commanded his fastball as well as he did his off-speed pitches.
Paulino's next start may or may not be with Omaha – Jirschele isn't sure. He went on to say Paulino left with physical therapist Jeff Blum for Kansas City after the game to be assessed as part of his rehab.