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Gavin Stone strikes out 8 in only 3 innings, Dalton Rushing makes spring debut

MLB: FEB 22 Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Gavin Stone struck out eight in just three innings against the A’s on Sunday, continuing to show why the non-roster pitcher is expected to pitch for the Dodgers at some point in 2023.

Pitching in relief on Sunday, Stone allowed singles to his first two batters faced in the sixth inning, only one leaving the infield. He then struck out the next two hitters before an inning-ending grounder to prevent damage. Then he struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh, showcasing, among other things, the changeup that Baseball Prospectus in December said “might flat out be the best in the minors.”

He allowed a double to Zack Gelof in the eighth inning — the only extra-base hit Stone has allowed this spring — but struck out three more in the inning. Eight strikeouts is the most by a Dodgers pitcher in a game this spring.

“It’s hard not to talk about the changeup. You just look at the mound presence, this guy looks like a straight-up killer on the mound,” assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said during an in-game interview with Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA. “It feels like he’s been pitching in the big leagues for a very long time.”

In four Cactus League games, Stone has allowed no runs in 6⅔ innings, with 14 strikeouts (a 52-percent strikeout rate) and two walks.

Stone, the Dodgers’ fifth-round pick out of Central Arkansas in 2020, had a 1.48 ERA in 121⅔ innings between High-A Great Lakes, Double-A Tulsa, and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He struck out 168 with a 33.9-percent strikeout rate, and walked 44. He was the Branch Rickey Award winner as the Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year. Stone is the consensus No. 4 Dodgers prospect, with an average ranking of 53rd in MLB from various national lists.

Welcome aboard

Dalton Rushing, the Dodgers’ top draft pick in 2022 — picked 40th overall out of Louisville — made his first professional appearance in a major league spring training game. He pinch-hit for designated hitter James Outman in the seventh inning, and delivered a fly ball single to left field, scoring Miguel Vargas from second base in the process.

In an interview with about the Dodgers development system, Rushing this week said, “I tell myself, wherever I go, whether it’s to start the year, halfway through the season, wherever I’m at, I want to be the best player in that league. I don’t want to be middle of the pack, I don’t want to be top 10. I want to be the best player in that league.”