Matt Larkins has never read the fine print of a major-league contract, but if the 27-year-old native of Moscow, Idaho, keeps throwing the way he has lately, that could change. The Ducks starter, an independent league lifer, is becoming one of the most feared pitchers in the Atlantic League after twice limiting opponents to one hit.
“I mean, that’s been the goal my whole life, and I haven’t played affiliated ball one time,” Larkins said of the possibility of being signed by a major-league organization. “It’s the reason I’m still playing, trying to get picked up. Hopefully, performances like this open up some eyes and somebody will give me a shot somewhere.”
Larkins threw a one-hit, 1-0 shutout of the Lancaster Barnstormers on July 5. His no-hit bid on June 15 against the Somerset Patriots was broken up in the ninth inning.
“I’ve always thrown the ball pretty well,” he said. “But I can’t think of a time where I’ve done that.”
Entering play Friday, Larkins was 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA in 15 games (14 starts). He credits his impressive month to an increased reliance on his off-speed pitches, something that he said really started to percolate in a June 25 start against Sugar Land. That came two starts after the no-hit bid against the Patriots. Larkins allowed one run and four hits in seven innings of a 4-1 win over the Skeeters.
“I started incorporating the changeup both to righties and to lefties,” Larkins said. “It’s added a third pitch to get the hitters off the fastball and slider. [On July 5] from about the sixth on, I started to throw the curveball more, too. Just being able to incorporate all three or four pitches into the game at once has helped out a lot.”
Ducks catcher and Atlantic League All-Star Alex Burg has caught both of Larkins’ one-hitters.
“He’s really commanding everything,” said Burg, who has been a solid defender in his first season as a full-time catcher. “Every time I put down a sign, he’s 100 percent confident in everything he’s throwing . . . Sometimes his fastball will run the length of the plate. Any time you get movement like that, as hard as he’s throwing, it’s tough for hitters . . . That’s why I started catching, to catch guys like that.”
“It’s easy. He just puts down a sign and usually we’re on the same page, so I just go right away,” Larkins said. “I don’t have to think very much out there and I can just throw. It’s almost like playing a video game.”
Songco homers in All-Star Game
As if on cue, Angelo Songco homered for the Liberty Division in the fourth inning of the Atlantic League All-Star Game on Wednesday night in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The Freedom Division ran away with a 10-3 victory at TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots.
Songco was the most prolific power hitter in the Liberty Division during the first half, leading the group of four teams with 14 home runs. Entering the All-Star break, he was hitting .260 with 38 RBIs.
The 28-year-old has been in a bit of a power slump. Before his All-Star Game blast, his last home run came on June 18. Entering play Friday, he ranked fourth in the Atlantic League home run chase. Lancaster’s K.C. Hobson’s 21 home runs still led the league. Hobson was signed by the Giants’ organization on June 29.
Before Wednesday’s game, league officials announced that the Ducks will host next season’s All-Star Game.
On deck: Somerset @ Ducks, 5:05 p.m. Sunday