EVERETT — Jose Campos has clearly caught the attention of the Seattle Mariners.
Several members of the Mariners front office were on hand at Everett Memorial Stadium on Saturday to get a first-hand look at the Everett AquaSox’s prized prospect, and the Sox starting pitcher outdid even their
lofty expectations, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and a shutout into the eighth as the Sox defeated the Tri-City Dust Devils 6-4.
Campos retired the first 19 Tri-City batters in order as he produced his best performance of the season for the bigwigs.
“He did some nice things,” Mariners director of minor-league operations Pedro Grifol said. “I think Andrew Lorraine, our pitching coach, has done a hell of a job with him because he showed a nice breaking ball, he mixed in his change up, he kept the ball down, he kept his composure. All the things we talked about coming out of extended spring training he’s doing, so it was a nice thing to see.”
Campos has been the breakout prospect on this year’s Everett roster. Going into Saturday’s start the hard-throwing 19-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, signed by the Mariners as an international free agent in 2009 and playing his first season in the U.S., was 4-3 with an impressive 2.82 ERA and 56-9 strikeout-walk ratio in 541/3 innings.
And with the likes of Grifol and Mariners director of international operations Bob Engle watching from the stands, Campos was every bit as good in person as those numbers indicated. With his breaking ball particularly effective, Campos stayed perfect until Jaron Shepherd rolled a single past diving first baseman Jharmidy De Jesus with one out in the seventh.
The Dust Devils finally ended Campos’ shutout bid with two outs in the eighth when Juan Crousset blasted a two-run homer to center. But Campos closed out the inning and finished his outing having given up just two hits and no walks in eight innings, striking out seven. He threw 95 pitches, 68 of which were strikes, and both the runs he allowed were unearned.
“He’s got the makings of being as high as a No. 1 (major-league starter) and as low as a No. 3 or 4,” Grifol said. “You can really project him. There’s a lot you look at and say, ‘This guy’s got the potential to be a big-league pitcher for a long time.’ But he’s still five levels away from the big leagues. So there’s a lot to learn, but he’s definitely made progress and we’re happy he’s a Mariner, that’s for sure.”
Grifol was non-committal when asked whether Campos warranted a promotion to a higher level to finish the season, citing Campos’ heavy work load between extended spring training and Everett as a reason to be patient.
Ramon Morla homered and made several nice picks at third bases for Everett, and Jetsy Extrano also homered as the Sox (11-7 second half, 27-29 overall) evened the series between Northwest League division leaders at 2-2. The rubber game is this afternoon.
Everett remained tied with Salem-Keizer, an 8-4 victor over Spokane, for first place in the West Division’s second half.
Tyler Massey also slugged a two-run homer as Tri-City (12-6, 34-22) tried to make a game of it late. Dust Devils starter Chris Jensen was nearly Campos’ equal, striking out seven during his four innings. However, Jensen was victimized by his defense, which allowed three unearned runs to score, and he was saddled with the loss to fall to 1-1.
It appeared Everett would come up empty in the bottom of the first, but Dust Devils shortstop Taylor Featherston threw low on what should have been De Jesus’ inning-ending grounder. One run scored on the play, then Morla followed by sending a moonshot two-run homer to left-center to give the Sox an early 3-0 advantage.
Everett got two more in the sixth. De Jesus singled in one run. Then Morla was the beneficiary of two two-base errors, making his way all the way around the bases on a grounder to third. Extrano then lined a shot high into the netting above the left-field wall leading off the seventh to make it 6-0.
The Dust Devils finally snapped the shutout in the eighth, and then Massey belted a two-run shot to right-center with one out in the ninth off reliever David Colvin to make it close. But Colvin got the final two outs on routine grounders to end it.