Erie pitcher Kyle Sleeth got a less-than-warm welcome to Class AA baseball.
On June 20, in his first start with the SeaWolves -- the Detroit Tigers' Eastern League affiliate -- Sleeth yielded nine hits and seven earned runs in six innings. He gave up three home runs -- as many as he allowed in 68 innings with the Advanced Class A Lakeland Tigers earlier this year. Those home runs came in six at-bats.
Five days later, Sleeth lost his second start and emerged with a 9.81 ERA.
"The first couple outings were really rough," Sleeth said. "This is a different game."
Indeed, the Class AA level is where teams "start finding out about players," according to Erie Manager Rick Sweet. So the manager had to be pleased with how Sleeth -- the Tigers' top-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America -- responded to his two poor starts. Wednesday, Sleeth picked up the win in a 3-2 victory over Harrisburg, going six innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out three.
He gets his next chance on Monday, when he is scheduled to start against Binghamton.
"I was only throwing two pitches for strikes, and I was able to compete and get a win," said Sleeth, who was an 18th-round pick by the Orioles out of high school in 2000. "Once I get all four pitches, it will be a lot better."
The Tigers selected Sleeth, 22, with the third overall pick in the 2003 draft. He had gone 31-6 in three years at Wake Forest, and in his first professional stint, with Lakeland, he went 5-4 with a 3.31 ERA.
Sleeth throws a fastball that touches 96 mph, a change-up, a curve and a slider.
"He's got the stuff, now he just has to become consistent with that stuff," Sweet said. "But what impresses you is he's got the perfect build for a pitcher [Sleeth is 6 feet 5, 205 pounds]. He's free and easy, the ball jumps out of his hand, he's got some deception and he's got four good pitches."