Tuesday's best: Molina impresses in return to mound

Tuesday's best: Molina impresses in return to mound

The New York Mets organization welcomed back one of its better pitching prospects on Tuesday as right-hander Marcos Molina returned from a nearly 21-month absence to hurl four innings of one-run ball for Class A Advanced St. Lucie.

The Mets' No. 13 prospect last pitched in a Minor League game on Aug. 17, 2015, also with St. Lucie, at the end of a season that saw him battle elbow issues throughout and log just 40 innings. Those elbow issues would lead to Tommy John surgery for Molina, costing him the entire 2016 season.

Molina finally returned to game action in the Arizona Fall League, to post a 3.78 ERA with eight strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. He made four appearances including one start for the Mets this year during Spring Training, only to suffer a lat strain toward the end of camp and subsequently miss the first five weeks of the regular season.

On Tuesday, Molina retired the first six batters he faced en route to facing one over the minimum for St. Lucie. He allowed just one hit, walked one and struck out three.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Tuesday

No. 2 overall prospect Gleyber Torres (Yankees' No. 1) played the hero for Double-A Trenton, as his go-ahead two run homer in the top of the eighth inning was the difference in the Thunder's 4-2 win over New Hampshire. The home run was Torres' third, and he also tallied his eighth double in a 2-for-3 showing.

• No. 7 overall prospect Ozzie Albies (Braves' No. 1) reached base in each of his five plate appearances out of the leadoff spot for Triple-A Gwinnett, going 3-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. One of Albies' three hits was a solo homer, his second, and he also swiped his 13th base.

• No. 22 overall prospect Nick Senzel (Reds' No. 1) started the scoring for Class A Advanced Daytona with his third home run -- a two-run homer off of No. 41 overall prospect Mitch Keller (Pirates' No. 2) in his first at-bat -- before finishing 2-for-4 and matching his career high with four RBIs. The 21-year-old third baseman also hit his Florida State League-leading 14th double in the contest, marking his fourth straight game recording a two-base hit.

• No. 28 overall prospect Jose De Leon (Rays' No. 3) was unhittable for five innings in his second rehab start for Class A Advanced Charlotte. The 24-year-old righty threw 69 pitches (42 strikes) in the outing, issuing two walks and striking out five. Sidelined since Spring Training due to a right flexor mass strain, De Leon completed just 3 1/3 frames in his season debut before Tuesday's dominant start.

"I felt really good," De Leon told MiLB.com. "I've been feeling more comfortable every time I'm out there. I thought my changeup was working much better today, and that allowed me to work in some curveballs and sliders."

• No. 43 overall prospect Nick Gordon (Twins' No. 1) recorded a pair of extra-base hits and scored two runs out of the leadoff spot for Double-A Chattanooga in a 4-1 victory over Birmingham. The 21-year-old shortstop recorded his Southern League-leading fifth triple to open the bottom of the first and later added a two-run homer, his third, before finishing 2-for-4. Through 36 games, Gordon is hitting .322/.383/.507.

• No. 54 overall prospect Luis Ortiz (Brewers' No. 4) fired five no-hit innings for the second time in seven starts for Double-A Biloxi. He issued three walks, generated five ground-ball outs and matched his season high with six strikeouts. After a shaky season debut (4 IP, 5 ER), Ortiz, 22, has pitched to a 1.45 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .137 average in 31 innings across his last six starts.

"The number-one thing for Ortiz in each start is his fastball command," Biloxi pitching coach Chris Hook told MiLB.com. "He's really tuned up his game as the season has gone along and executed well today.

"One of the great things about Luis is his game awareness," Hook added. "Today he had six strikeouts; last time, I think, he had one. If he needs a ground ball, he'll try to go get one. If he needs a strikeout, he'll elevate [the pitch] for one. He pitches to the game, which is how it should be done."

Angels' No. 15 prospect Parker Bridwell allowed one hit as he faced the minimum over seven innings in his second start for Triple-A Salt Lake. The 25-year-old righty struck out six and induced nine ground-ball outs, including a double play in the third inning to erase his lone hit. Acquired from Baltimore in mid-April, Bridwell has given up just three hits in 12 scoreless innings since joining Salt Lake.

• The left side of Class A Fort Wayne's infield was at it again on Tuesday, as 18-year-olds shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres' No. 6 prospect) and Hudson Potts (No. 12) both went 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored. It was the second consecutive three-hit game for Tatis, who's batting .396 with eight extra-base hits during his current 11-game hitting streak. Potts, meanwhile, has collected eight hits, including five extra-base hits, in his last three games.

• After going 2-for-5 with two more RBIs on Tuesday, Pirates' No. 5 prospect Cole Tucker has now driven in 13 in his last three games for Class A Advanced Bradenton. He's also tallied multiple hits in five straight, during which he's batting .462 (12-for-26) with seven extra-base hits, and leads all Minor Leaguers with 25 stolen bases.

Brett Phillips (Brewers' No. 10) pushed his home run total to eight with his second multi-homer game of the season for Triple-A Colorado Springs. With a triple already under his belt in the contest, the 22-year-old outfielder hit a solo homer in the seventh and then added a three-run shot in the ninth to finish 3-for-6 with four RBIs. He's having a bounce-back campaign in the Pacific Coast League, with a .306 average, 16 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs through 31 games.

Rockies No. 18 prospect Sam Howard went the distance for Double-A Hartford in Game 1 of a doubleheader to record his first career shutout. The 24-year-old lefty yielded one hit in seven scoreless frames, compiling four strikeouts and one walk while throwing 58 of 89 pitches for strikes. Howard as been excellent this season, posting a 1.61 ERA with a 0.68 WHIP in 28 innings (five starts).

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.