After nearly a month of working through a throwing program only, Woodstock native Kent Emanuel made his professional pitching debut, tossing two innings of scoreless, two-hit ball for the Houston Astros’ Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate Aug. 3 in Clearwater, Fla.
Emanuel, who signed with Houston on July 4, after the Astros selected the former Woodstock High and University of North Carolina standout with the first pick of the third round in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft in June, struck out two and walked none against the GCL Phillies.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw returned to the mound for a second start on Aug. 8, this time surrendering no runs on three hits and two strikeouts in two innings against the GCL Blue Jays.
Following a junior campaign in which he went 11-5 with a 3.14 ERA and tossed 131.2 innings over 21 appearances –– helping to lead UNC to a top-four finish and the NCAA Division I College World Series, earning the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year award and receiving All-American honors for the second year in a row –– Houston is limiting Emanuel’s innings count this summer.
Originally expected to join Houston’s Short Season New York-Penn League squad, the Tri-City ValleyCats, in Troy, N.Y., after spending a few weeks with the GCL Astros, he is instead wrapping up his stay in Kissimmee this week and is enrolled for fall semester at UNC, where he is two semesters shy of earning a degree in Sports and Exercise Science. Emanuel will then report back to the Astros in February for spring training.
• • •
Merkling getting on track
Shaking off a pair of bad outings over his first three appearances for the Batavia Muckdogs, Miami’s Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League affiliate, former Etowah High School ace Patrick Merkling is settling in.
Over his last eight relief appearances, Merkling, who surrendered 11 earned runs on 11 hits and four walks in 3 innings in his first three outings for the Muckdogs, has allowed just two earned runs, nine hits and two walks and has struck out 12 in 12.1 innings of work.
Prior to joining Batavia in late-June, Merkling, taken by the Marlins in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft, made seven appearances for the Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads of the Class A Advanced Florida State League, posting a 1-0 mark with a 5.06 ERA and nine strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
• • •
Healthy Faulk returning to form
Sidelined by injury for all of June and most of July, Woodstock native Kenny Faulk returned to the mound for the Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens, Detroit’s affiliate in the Triple-A International League, and has been mowing down batters ever since.
In nine relief appearances since his return, the 2009 16th-round draft pick out of Kennesaw State, has given up just one run on three hits and fanned 13 batters in 15.1 innings of work, including 7.1 innings of one-hit, no-run work in his last four trips to the hill.
In his fifth minor league season, Faulk has climbed the hill in 189 games, going 10-13 with 46 saves, a 3.19 ERA, 287 strikeouts and 118 walks in 233.2 innings.
Despite his success for most of the season, Faulk said he is not expecting to be called up to the big league club in 2013. Instead, he could get extended work in the Arizona Fall League or winter league — gearing himself for an MLB push in the spring.
*All statistics through Aug. 11, 2013