Pinto looks to Futures Game as springboard

Phillies' prospect adjusting to first season at Double-A

Pinto looks to Futures Game as springboard

READING, Pa. -- The 2016 season hasn't gone the way Ricardo Pinto planned. In his first season at Double-A, he has posted career highs in ERA, WHIP and home runs per nine innings.

But being named one of two Phillies prospects to Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game has given the 22-year-old right-hander new fuel for the second half. He retired the only two batters he faced during the game, contributing to the World Team's 11-3 victory over the U.S..

"It's always been a dream of mine," Pinto said through an interpreter. "I want to thank the Philadelphia Phillies staff for helping me out and just giving me everything I have right now. This is something that will just help me keep going."

Since being signed out of Venezuela in 2012, the highest ERA that Pinto posted was 3.09 last season at Class A Lakewood. He relied on a fastball-changeup combo that likely could succeed in a big league bullpen right now. But through 17 Double-A starts, that number sits at 4.58.

Pinto and the Phillies still have their eyes set on him being a starter. He has spent 2016 expanding his repertoire to also include a curveball and slider. The road to refining those breaking balls has been a bumpy one.

Pinto coasted through Class A Advanced, finding he could get away with mistake pitches and still get outs. It has been a different experience at Double-A.

"I've noticed the hitters are more mature," Pinto said. "If you throw a mistake, they're going to make you pay. … I've been learning from those mistakes. Sometimes I could get away with those mistakes in High A ball, but here I don't get outs with the mistake pitches."

Pinto pitched a career-high 145 1/3 innings last season between Lakewood and High A Clearwater. At 96 1/3 through the first half of 2016, he is on pace to expand on that number as he continues to get stretched out.

He was particularly excited to throw one of those innings at Petco Park, though it's not clear if he was more eager to pitch in the Futures Game or explore what the city of San Diego has to offer (he's never been).

"I can't wait to be there," Pinto said prior to the game. "I have a lot of friends who have already told me it's a beautiful city. I can't wait to just walk around all over San Diego."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.