Duke’s Stinson shows good stuff against Durham Bulls

Duke pitcher Graeme Stinson delivers against the Durham Bulls at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in an exhibition game on Tuesday night.
Duke pitcher Graeme Stinson delivers against the Durham Bulls at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in an exhibition game on Tuesday night. The Herald-Sun

Just a freshman, Duke pitcher Graeme Stinson received graduate level baseball experience on Tuesday night.

The left-hander has fared well against non-ACC teams, compiling a 3-0 record and pitching to a 3.26 ERA.

But against Duke’s league foes, he’s faced seven batters and seen all seven reach base. That’s why he owns a 6.52 ERA for the season.

That’s the body of work Stinson carried to the mound when Duke faced the Durham Bulls in an exhibition game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Yet Stinson showed no fear, pitching four innings and allowing just one run in a game the Triple-A Bulls wound up winning 2-1 on a run scored after Stinson’s night was through.

“I’ve learned my lesson the last couple of weeks in not giving the hitters too much credit,” Stinson said. “They are going to get themselves out more than seven out of 10 times. You just have to trust your stuff and not let that get in your head. I’m figuring out how to pitch to a lot better hitters and knowing that you don’t have to be that much better to do it.”

A mid-week starter for Duke Stinson had success in his collegiate debut on March 4 when he struck out the first three Princeton batters he faced. In his first start on March 8 against Mount St. Mary’s, he struck out 10 during a four-inning stretch.

ACC batters have had nothing but success, though. Stinson has walked four, hit two and allowed one single while failing to record an out in his two appearances.

The things that led to those struggles weren’t on display against a Bulls lineup which features two of Tampa Bay’s top young hitting prospects in Willy Adames and Jake Bauers.

Stinson struck out Adames with a runner on base in the first inning. In the fourth inning, Adames ripped an opposite-field double and scored on a Bauers single.

But Stinson settled down to strike out Casey Gillaspie and retire Pat Leonard on a fly ball to centerfield. Following a walk to Shane Peterson, Michael McKenry lined out to third base to end the inning and Stinson’s night with the scored tied 1-1.

Duke coach Chris Pollard said Stinson, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s, can use his fastball primarily to get hitters out in mid-week games. Against the more talented Bulls hitters who are adept at hitting those types of fastballs, he was forced to rely on secondary pitches

The fact that Stinson found success bodes well.

“He may go five innings and only throw two breaking balls against some of our mid-week opponents,” Pollard said. “When he got to the top of their lineup and started going through their lineup the second time, it was very clear against that caliber of player he’s not going to be able to just throw fastballs. So therefore he had to really pitch and those last two innings he really pitched, especially that fourth inning. He used his changeup. He used his slider.”

Bulls manager Jared Sandberg saw plenty of good traits in Duke’s young lefty.

“For somebody who relies on his fastball and had to use secondary stuff, he definitely did that,” Sandberg said. “He probably learned to pitch a little different way and trust his stuff against some Triple-A players. That was fantastic.”

So perhaps the next time Stinson faces an ACC team, he’ll find heretofore unseen success. If he doesn’t, it certainly won’t be because he was intimidated.

“You are not always going to be in a perfect situation,” Stinson said. “But going out there and competed against some really good hitters is just a lot of fun.”

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC