Thomas Pannone, a left-handed pitching prospect in the Cleveland Indians farm system, may have already been rewarded for his incredible start to the 2017 season with a quick promotion from High-A Lynchburg to Double-A Akron, but that does not mean the recognition has stopped there for the 23-year-old starter.
On Monday, he was selected as the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Month for April.
Pannone, who ended his impressive 2016 season with eight games (seven starts) with the Hillcats while posting a 3-0 record with a 1.65 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, began the new campaign with a no-decision against Myrtle Beach on April 7. He worked five no-hit innings, giving up a pair of walks while striking out eight. He set down the final 14 batters that he faced in order after walking the first and third batters of the game. He struck out five straight batters at one point, ending the second with a swinging K before striking out the side in the third and starting the fourth with a called third strike.
He made his second home start of the season on April 12 as Lynchburg hosted Salem. He worked six innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits while walking one and again striking out eight, but was dealt another tough no-decision. Twice in the game he retired nine straight batters, with the two streaks separated by a leadoff double by Salem’s Josh Tobias to start the fourth. He struck out the side in the fifth.
He made his first road start of the Carolina League schedule on April 18 as the Hillcats traveled to Zebulon to take on the Carolina Mudcats. He worked five and two-thirds innings, allowing just one hit and a pair of walks while striking out six. This time out, he earned the win in a 1-0 seven-inning game. He retired the final seven batters that he faced on the day, including striking out the last two, and retired 13 of his final 14 around a sixth inning error by shortstop Willi Castro.
In his final start of the month, he took the mound in Salem against the Red Sox for his second matchup with the club this season. He lasted just four innings, giving up four hits and walking a pair, but did not allow a run while striking out a season-high nine batters in another no-decision. He worked around a big jam in his final inning of work to keep the Sox scoreless. After striking out the leadoff man, he walked back-to-back hitters before a second strikeout. A single to short loaded the bases, but he notched his third strikeout of the inning to keep the game 2-0 in favor of Lynchburg at the time. The Red Sox would score six in the next frame off of the Hillcats bullpen and would go on to win, 6-2.
His final numbers for April included a 1-0 record, a 0.00 ERA, a WHIP of 0.68, a batting average against of .106, one unearned run allowed, and 31 strikeouts against seven walks and seven hits in 20 2/3 innings of work.
The award for Pannone was the second in his professional career. He was also named the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week on July 24 of last season. He was a midseason All-Star with Class-A Lake County for his work in the first half of last year and was selected as a post-season All-Star with the Arizona League Indians in 2014.
Pannone was a ninth round pick by the Indians in the 2013 draft out of the College of Southern Nevada. He had been selected the previous season in the 33rd round out of high school as an outfielder by the Chicago Cubs, but did not sign.
His April has proven to be no fluke. In his first start of May, he threw seven scoreless innings against Winston-Salem, allowing three hits while striking out eight to earn his second win of the year for the Hillcats. It also earned him his promotion to Akron.
In his first career Double-A start on Monday, he worked five and two-thirds innings against the Trenton Thunder, giving up three hits and walking three while striking out six. For the sixth time in as many starts, he did not give up an earned run, extending his unearned run streak to start the season to 33 1/3 innings. He has not allowed an unearned run in 51 1/3 consecutive regular season innings, dating back to August 25 of last season, when he allowed a one-out homer in the first inning to Wilmington’s Anderson Miller.
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