The potential probably never looked better than Sunday when the 28-year-old, who had a season and a half at Ottawa in the Can-Am League (16-6) before getting his second affiliated opportunity, made one of those Tampa Bay bullpen-day starts, handcuffing the potent New York Yankees on one a run in 4.2 innings. The Rays won the Yankee Stadium tussle, 3-1, with the win going to another former Independent Baseball hurler, Chaz Roe.
"Today, he (Font) gave us a huge boost with a chance to win," manager Kevin Cash told MLB.com. "He went a little deeper than what we anticipated. But he was efficient and threw strikes."
Font said he "wanted to (finish) the fifth, but we got a team win. That's all that matters." The right-hander, who had a grand total of five major league innings (Texas, '12-'13) prior to joining the Dodgers late last season after winning Pitcher of the Year honors in the Pacific Coast League, has been a starter almost exclusively since joining Ottawa. The Venezuelan believes he can be a part of the Rays' rotation. "I feel pretty good starting," he told MLB.com. "I can throw more pitches the next start."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone also praised the hurler, who has only been with Tampa Bay since May 26, working four times out of the bullpen and starting in his last three appearances. "Font was good," Boone said. "He fastball was a wide range--low 90s to even upper 90s. A lot of teams have been interested in him because the ability is there. He flipped in the curve enough to keep us off balance. He was under control for most of the game, and we couldn't break through on him."
Font now has a 2.20 earned run average in 16.1 innings for his new team, allowing 11 hits although his walks (eight) remain fairly high. To show how far he has come since his difficult days with the Dodgers and Athletics, the 6-foot-4 hurler still has a 7.56 ERA (0-3 record) in his 33.1 innings this season.
"It was definitely a good win for us," said Roe, who pitched in the American Association (Laredo) and has worked his way into regular relief duty in the majors, pitching for Arizona, the Yankees, Baltimore, Atlanta and the Rays. He is 31.
The Independent leagues have contributed 21 players currently on major league rosters or disabled lists with the Rays and Washington both owning three of them. Frontier League grad Vidal Nuno (Washington, PA) also is with Tampa Bay while the Nationals have ace Max Scherzer (Fort Worth, American Association), starter Tanner Roark, who made his pro debut at Southern Illinois in the Frontier League, and reliever Brandon Kintzler, who pitched for St. Paul in the American Association and Winnipeg before the Goldeyes transferred to that league from the Northern League.