Astros' Velasquez backed by offense in AFL win

Houston's No. 8 prospect allows one hit, strikes out six; Salt River scores 14 in victory

Astros' Velasquez backed by offense in AFL win

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Astros prospect Vincent Velasquez missed two months during the regular season with a groin strain, but now he's 100 percent healthy and his results in the Arizona Fall League reflect it.

"I'm feeling really strong," Velasquez said. "Everything's feeling good. I've never felt better. Arm is coming along perfectly, everything starts from the ground up and it's working good."

Box score

Velasquez threw five innings, allowed two runs on one hit and earned the win as the Salt River Rafters defeated the Glendale Desert Dogs, 14-2, on Tuesday.

"Today was good," Velasquez, the No. 8 prospect in the Astros organization, said. "Everything was working today, again. Another strong outing."

Tuesday's game at Salt River Fields was the eighth game in which the 20-second pitch clocks, just one of several time-saving measures Major League Baseball's Pace of Game committee is testing, was enforced.

Following Tuesday's two-hour and 56-minute affair, the average pitch-clock game has lasted two hours and 39 minutes.

Under the new rules, if a pitcher does not deliver a pitch in 20 seconds, an automatic ball will be called, which is exactly what happened to Velasquez as the right-hander began the third inning.

"I had five seconds left," Velasquez said. "I actually glanced at the clock a little bit. I realized how much time I had. The guy, it seemed like his foot was out of the box and I kind of thought he had to get in the box while I was already ready, but I'm still getting familiar with this whole time thing. Now I'm aware of what I've got to do. If I'm ready, then I've got to throw the pitch. If he's not ready then that's his fault.

Ultimately the ball did not impact Velasquez, as he struck out Orioles prospect Garabez Rosa.

Velasquez struck out five in a row at one point and finished with six strikeouts in his longest outing of the AFL so far.

Velasquez's quality start may have set the tone from the outset, but the Rafters offense did its fair share of the work and blew the game open in the later innings.

Salt River jumped on the board early with five runs in the first three innings, and from there, the lead kept mounting. The Rafters finished with 14 runs on 15 hits.

"It's always a good feeling to have," Velasquez said. "That run support is definitely a booster. You can't go wrong with that. Good offense, good defense, no matter what it is, if it's supporting you it always helps you throughout the game and mentally makes you stronger."

Rockies prospect Taylor Featherston, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft, made the early contributions with RBI singles in the second and third, but once the sixth rolled around, the rest of his teammates joined the hit parade.

In a nine-run sixth inning, the Rafters tallied eight hits and sent 13 men to the plate.

At one point in the sixth, 10 straight Rafters batters reached base.

While all nine starters reached base in the inning, it was Rockies prospect Ryan Casteel and Twins prospect Max Kepler that delivered the big hits.

Casteel, a 17th-round selection in 2010, drove in two with a double to center, and two batters later Kepler, the Twins No. 19 prospect , cleared the bases with a three-run triple.

The win, Salt River's first since Friday, improves the Rafters record to a league-best 13-4.

William Boor is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.