Veteran pitcher hurt for Curve in loss at home
Tonight: Bowie at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Pedro Vasquez (6-3, 2.91) vs. Baysox LHP Zac Lowther (12-6, 2.71)
Record: 24-31 (second half); 60-63 (overall)
Former major league pitcher Tom Koehler has battled back from a shoulder injury that kept him out for more than a year, and the 33-year-old just joined the Curve trying to continue his comeback.
His first appearance with the club ended prematurely Friday night when he was forced out of the game after throwing 17 pitches in the seventh inning.
“I just had kind of a spasm in the back of my shoulder,” Koehler said. “So, with everything that’s been going on and with the surgery, I just thought it would be a good idea not to force anything. I don’t want to set myself back months or years.”
The Curve lost to Bowie, 6-2, before 6,517 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field to drop three games below .500. Altoona is now getting dangerously close to falling into a hole it won’t be able to climb out of with regards to avoiding a losing record.
Domingo Robles (2-6) allowed four runs in six innings to take the loss for the Curve. Cody Sedlock (1-1) held Altoona to one run in five innings for the win, and Zach Muckenhirm got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Koehler came on in relief to start the seventh inning and the Curve down, 4-1. He gave up a leadoff single, got a strikeout, then allowed a two-run homer to Cedric Mullens.
Koehler walked Anderson Feliz and threw a wild pitch, then the Curve coaches and trainer came onto the field to check on him.
“It’s just an absolute awful feeling when you see something like that and then you’ve got to go look on their face and ask him how you’re feeling or what happened,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said.
Koehler exited the game at that point, and afterward he said the night was deflating.
“This whole process is deflating,” Koehler noted. “The goal is to go out there and get hitters out, so when I’m not pitching the way that I’m capable of pitching, no matter what the level is, I take that as a negative.”
Koehler pitched in the big leagues from 2012-17 with the Marlins, and Blue Jays. He was a solid starter during his days with the Marlins, winning 10 games with a 3.81 ERA in 2014 and 11 games with a 4.08 ERA in 2015.
Koehler’s MLB totals include a 36-55 record and 4.39 ERA over 161 games (133 starts).
He first injured his shoulder in spring training with the Dodgers in 2018 and did not pitch again until signing with the Pirates recently and making three starts in rookie ball.
Friday was the fourth outing of his comeback.
“You never want to walk off the mound, but at the same time, we’re doing a lot of things that we haven’t done in the rehab process now by getting in these games,” Koehler said. “You don’t know how things are going to respond. You’re not in the same rehab routine every day. There’s a lot of unknowns that we just don’t know how the arm is going to respond to.”
Koehler isn’t sure when his next outing will be, saying it all depends on how his shoulder responds going forward.
“We had a calendar to where everything was mapped out when I was throwing for my progression,” he said. “So now we just basically have to see how I come back from that today, how I feel. There could be no changes, there could be lots of changes. But that’s above my pay grade.”
It’s easy to root for a guy like Koehler to get back to the big leagues, which makes it tough to see a setback of any kind after the player has put in so much rehab work.
“All the reports on him, he’s just such a great man and how hard he’s worked to try to get back, you hope and pray that it’s nothing serious,” Ryan said. “It’s just a tough feeling. I hate it.”
n 2B Mitchell Tolman was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. He hit .254 with four homers and 32 RBIs in 116 games for the Curve.
Utility man Darnell Sweeney also was sent back to Triple-A. The former major leaguer batted .196 in 15 games for the Curve.
The Pirates promoted INF Adrian Valerio and Jesse Medrano from high-A Bradenton to Altoona.
Key player: C Carlos Perez went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs for Bowie.
Key play: The Baysox broke it open with a two-run homer by LF Cedric Mullins in the seventh.
Key stat: The Curve are now three games below .500.
How they scored
Top 1st: Mullins doubled, scored on Perez single (0-1).
Top 4th: Perez singled, Valentin doubled, both scored on Jarrett single (0-3).
Bottom 4th: Oliva singled, scored on Cruz double (1-3).
Top 6th: Perez solo homer (1-4).
Top 7th: Yahn singled, scored on Mullins two-run homer (1-6).
Bottom 9th: Madris singled, scored on Delay fielder’s choice (2-6).