Everyone knows you don't talk to a starting pitcher who has a no-hitter or perfect game going, but sticking to tradition can be a bit more difficult if the pitcher himself is in the dark.
When right-hander Matt Frisbee took the mound Thursday night in Harrisburg, Pa., he knew the plan was to go just five innings in his second Double-A start. He didn't quite realize how dominant those five innings were, though.
"I thought I was going to come out in the fifth. I looked at the scoreboard and I was like, 'Oh, there's a no-hitter going," Frisbee said in a phone interview Friday. "Nobody shook my hand or anything. I was like, 'I guess I'm going back out there.'"
Frisbee went out for the sixth and got a strikeout, flyball to center, and popup. Then he finally took a seat and watched relievers Joey Marciano, Matt Seelinger and Patrick Ruotolo close out the first nine-inning no-hitter in Flying Squirrels history.
Frisbee, 24, did the heavy lifting, throwing six perfect innings and striking out six. He needed just 56 pitches to get through his six innings. The perfect game bid ended when Marciano walked the first batter of the seventh, but he struck out a pair while recording five outs. Seelinger got a strikeout to end the eighth and Ruotolo sandwiched three groundouts around a hit-by-pitch in the ninth.
The Flying Squirrels got to briefly celebrate on the field, but COVID-19 protocols are strict in the minors, so the postgame scene was calm.
"You get in the clubhouse and you just crank up the music, man," Frisbee said, laughing. "That's about it. You just enjoy your time with the guys. You can't do much more, unfortunately."
Frisbee got a game ball as a keepsake and will get a signed scorecard before Friday's game, items that will soon be joined by others if all goes according to plan. The right-hander had himself on the radar even before Thursday's game, earning an invite to big league camp this spring with good work in the low minors and the instructional league.
Frisbee, a 15th-round pick out of UNC-Greensboro in 2018, pitched out of the bullpen that summer but flourished after being moved back to a rotation in 2019. He had a 3.13 ERA in 26 appearances for Low-A Augusta and High-A San Jose, striking out 154 in 132 1/3 innings. This season, he has allowed just two hits in 11 scoreless innings for Richmond.
"It's just being able to mix all my pitches and throw them for strikes and get ahead early," Frisbee said. "It's getting ahead, staying focused, and having full conviction of every pitch."
Frisbee has piled up strikeouts in the minors but said an emphasis right now is on getting weak contact, which will allow him to pitch deeper into games. He throws a fastball that sits 92-94 mph, a slider, a splitter and a changeup. The last two can be interchangeable, and Frisbee said the changeup has been a key to his early success this year.
Frisbee is part of a Double-A rotation that could be a big part of the future at the big league level. It includes highly-regarded right-handers Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck, spring standout Sam Long, and 25-year-old righty Gerson Garabito. The Giants have veterans in Triple-A's rotation, but expect to lean on some younger starters late in the year.
It was a good sign for Frisbee that he was included in that group this spring, and he's off to a strong start for a Richmond team that lost its opener but has since rolled off a franchise-record eight straight wins. Outfielder Heliot Ramos (1.147 OPS), third baseman David Villar (.887) and first baseman Frankie Tostado (.882) have led the offense, but on Thursday, the pitching staff didn't need much help.
Frisbee retired 18 straight and then watched the bullpen close out a historic night for the Double-A club.
"It was a lot of fun. The last inning, I think I was almost calling pitches myself," Frisbee said. "Like, 'If you throw it here, you're good.' I have so much confidence in the guys in the bullpen, and I knew that especially with the guys that we brought in they would close it down."