SALT LAKE CITY — Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, former UCLA Bruin Griffin Canning is one of the top prospects in the Los Angeles Angels organization, top 10 in fact.
Thursday night at Smith’s Ballpark he made the first Triple-A start of his professional career, after thriving at the Double-A level, and did not disappoint.
Canning pitched four scoreless innings, giving up just two hits while striking out six.
His effort on the mound, his ninth scoreless start this season, combined with the hitting of Eric Young Jr. and Rymer Liriano, carried the Bees to a 6-3 series-opening victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.
Young and Liriano finished a combined 4 for 6 with three RBIs and drove in the final three Bees runs.
Young’s RBI came courtesy of a ground-rule double in the fifth inning and proved to be the game-winner.
“It was a grind tonight, but guys stepped up and we squeezed out a win,” Young said. “It is always good to come away with a win.”
HELLO GOODBYE: Thursday was a transaction-heavy day for the Bees, in a season chock full of moves. The club made 11 separate transactions prior to the series-opening contest against the Rainiers, reaching a season total of 169 in the process.
Chief among the moves was the return of slugger Jabari Blash, as well as the arrival of Canning.
All told, the Bees welcomed four players to the clubhouse, including pitchers JakeJewell and Miguel Almonte.
Departures included outfielder Michael Hermosillo, who was recalled by the Angels, as well as Jose Rojas, Connor Lillis-White, both of whom were sent to the Angels’ Double-A affiliate Mobile BayBears.
Additionally, Sean Isaac, Julian Leon and Alberto Triunfel left the Triple-A side, making the trip to Single-A’s Inland Empire.
MISSING MANAGER: Ballplayers weren’t the only ones absent from the Bees Thursday.
Manager Keith Johnson, who has 671 minor league victories including 449 with Salt Lake, also departed the club.
His absence was a welcome one, however, as Johnson is taking the series against Tacoma off, per an Angels mandate for every member of its minor league coaching staffs. (Each Angels coach is required to take a four-game vacation during the season).
In his place is acting manager Shawn Wooten.
A rover, serving as an assistant hitting coordinator, Wooten has some familiarity with Salt Lake, going back to his own playing days.
An 18th round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers in the 1993 MLB draft, Wooten played 10 games with the Bees during his career, all in 2002.
MAN DOWN: All the transactions left the Bees shorthanded — the only position players on the bench were outfielder Liriano and catcher Michael Barash — a position which was made worse in the bottom of the second inning.
It was there, after striking out to end the frame, that Bees infielder Nolan Fontana was ejected.
His ejection left the home side shorthanded covering the bases and Wooten was forced to be creative in finding a solution.
His answer was Young.
The outfielder, who started the game in center, shifted to second to make way for Liriano in the outfield.
The appearance at second was the first in a few years for Young. Drafted as a second baseman, Young has shifted to the outfield over the course of his career.Comment on this story
As it turns out, Young hadn't manned second base in almost two years, when he was a member of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
"It's like riding a bike, but I hadn't been that close to a hit in awhile," said Young. "You can't really worry about that too much, and I just tried to go out there and help the team win the game."
Bees — 6
Rainiers — 3
In short: Griffin Canning had a strong Triple-A debut on the mound, pitching four scoreless innings.
Up next: Tacoma RHP Casey Lawrence (5-2, 2.42) at Salt Lake RHP Luis Pena (1-0, 1.80), Friday, 7:05 p.m.