Bladimir Restituyo is off to a good start this season. How good? He went 2 for 4 on Saturday to raise his batting average to a robust .372 (16 of 43) to go with five stolen bases in his first 12 games of the season.
On top of that, the undrafted international free agent signed by the Rockies in 2018 is playing a stellar center field despite still learning the position as a converted shortstop.
Restituyo’s RBI single in the fifth inning plated the go-ahead run and the Spokane Indians beat the Hillsboro Hops 3-1 in the fifth of a six-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium on Saturday.
The Indians evened their record at 7-7.
“I feel good because I’m helping the team,” Restituyo said through an interpreter. “That’s the way it should be.”
“The kid’s giving himself a chance to hit,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “He’s aggressive, and you know, he’s working on trying to be aggressive but more patient and swing at less bad pitches.
“He’s doing a hell of a job out there. I love having him in the lineup right now. He’s doing a great job. He just kind of sparked us and played really well on (offense and defense).”
Restituyo won’t turn 21 until July.
“I don’t care about your age,” Little said. “I want to know how your heart is and where you feel you are confidence-wise. Some people don’t care who they’re playing against. And that’s what matters.”
Restituyo was a midseason all-star in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 and for the short-season A Boise Hawks in 2019.
“I’m working hard to be an all-star again this year,” Restituyo said. “Anything to help win games.”
Hillsboro (6-8) leadoff hitter Tim Tawa jumped on Joe Rock’s first pitch of the game and clubbed it over the screen beyond the left field wall for a solo home run.
“He was sitting fastball and I threw a quality strike,” Tawa said. “It was just up in the zone. But it was early in the game, just had to reset and lock back in.”
The Indians answered in the home half of the first with three consecutive singles, the last of which by Drew Romo plated Restituyo from second to tie the game.
Spokane took the lead in the fifth. AJ Lewis walked, Ben Sems singled and after a sacrifice, Restituyo delivered an RBI single through the hole on the left side. Zac Veen walked to load the bases and Romo plated another run on a sacrifice fly.
Rock got through the sixth unscathed and picked up a called strike three on his last batter of the game. Boby Johnson provided a scoreless inning of relief, and Luke Taggert went two innings for his second save of the season.
“I felt strong,” Rock said. “I had everything working. I got my change-up working I think in the third inning so it came through, helped me out a lot.”
“I thought Rock was outstanding,” Little said. “He got ambushed on the first pitch of the game – no matter, he settled in, threw a heck of a game. He’s done that every game. He’s been pretty solid.”
The series concludes Sunday at 1:05 pm
• Skirt solid: The lead off home run on the first pitch of the game was all the hops got off Rock. The 6-foot-6, 21-year-old left-hander went six innings and allowed one run on three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches, 58 for strikes.
“I thought (Rock) was outstanding,” pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “He had a lot of work tonight.
“He found that change-up midgame and was fired up about it – and I was too. He actually got a strikeout on it on back-to-back change-ups to a right hander. It’s a bit of a foreign pitch for him and he’s learning the change-up and the feel for it and what it can do for him.”
Rock, the 68th overall pick in the 2021 draft by the Colorado Rockies, is ranked No. 13 in the system by MLB.com.
• Clutch hits: Romo knocked in two on the day – a one-out RBI single in the first to tie the game, then a sac fly that plated an insurance run in the fifth.
Little lauded the performance of the team with runners in scoring position during the homestand.
“There’s times we’ve left guys out there and runs that could have helped us win games and runs that could add on to give us a little more easy feeling at the end,” Little said. “And these kids know it, and they’re busting their butts to do it. And they’re all good teammates and they want to do what’s best for the team and they know their situational hitting had to improve.”