The Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg wasn't the only highly regarded baseball prospect debuting at a new level Tuesday night.
Kyle Russell, rated by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization entering this season, played his first career Class AA game Tuesday at AT&T Field.
Unlike Strasburg, Russell's performance wasn't quite the stuff of legend, but the third-round pick in 2008 legged out a triple and scored a run in the seventh inning and produced an improbable bunt single in the 12th inning of the Chattanooga Lookouts' 3-2 win over the Carolina Mudcats.
"That was the first bunt I've ever had in my (pro) career. I'm not going to lie," said the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Texan, who shared the Single-A Midwest League's MVP award in 2009 with fellow Lookout Dee Gordon.
With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the 12th, and Corey Smith on first with nobody out, the power-hitting Russell was called on to bunt against reliever Jeremy Horst. Russell's bunt sailed over Horst and found an empty patch of grass in the infield.
"It wasn't how I planned it out, but it worked out all right," he said. "It fell into a good place, and I got a base hit out of it."
Smith scored moments later following a throwing error on a Ramon Nivar ground ball to give the Lookouts (26-32) their fourth win in a row, all against the Mudcats (25-34).
Russell's first two at-bats Tuesday were strikeouts, a common occurrence for the left-handed-batting slugger. He struck out 64 times in 53 games with high Single-A Inland Empire this season. He also hit .354 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs for the 66ers.
In the seventh, with two out and the Lookouts trailing 2-0, Russell showed more patience at the plate, getting ahead of starting pitcher Tom Cochran 3-0 before slapping a pitch up the first-base line.
The Mudcats scored two unearned runs on Lookouts starter Chris Withrow in the second inning. Withrow walked in the second run on a 3-2 pitch. He got the Lookouts' first hit of the game in the third, a two-out infield single, and singled again in the sixth.
Withrow escaped a two-on, nobody-out jam in the fourth and settled down after that. He gave up five hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts and a walk.
Elian Herrera tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out triple that drove in Gordon from second.
"It was pretty cool and I was pretty excited," Russell said of his debut with the Lookouts.
Cole St. Clair pitched the 12th to earn the win, and the Lookouts got five innings of scoreless, one-hit relief.
Alberto Bastardo (5-3, 4.86 ERA) is the Lookouts' scheduled starting pitcher for this morning's 11:15 game, with Matt Fairel (0-1, 3.86) scheduled for the Mudcats.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...