To say I enjoy watching a ballplayer make his Major League debut would be an understatement. Whether a Cardinal or not, a player stepping to the plate in the big show for the first time mesmerizes me. The nerves, the excitement, the once-in-a-lifetime intensity – all that (and more) combine to create that rare thrill.
Thursday night, Lance Lynn got his moment of glory, taking the mound as starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Lynn was off to a tremendous start, retiring the first ten batters he faced. The Baby Bird was pitching like a pro and the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead heading into the 4th inning. I couldn’t have been more proud.
If you watched the game or saw the box score, you know the result wasn’t a picture-perfect debut by Lance Lynn. The defense let him down. The defense…. Yes, the Cardinals’ 2011 defense remains a sore subject with me. And yes, I’m again pointing a finger at a couple of our boys playing down the middle of the field.
Which brings me to Baby Bird Debut Numero Dos for last night, Maikel Cleto. Cleto came from the Mariners when the Cardinals decided to dump the brilliant defensive glove of shortstop Brendan Ryan. (insert my trademark Brendan Ryan trade protest here) Cleto was called up, fresh from AA Springfield yesterday, hopping over AAA to make his first appearance out of the St. Louis bullpen in the 7th inning. Unlike Lance Lynn, Cleto failed to impress me. He walked his first two batters, gave up a double and then back-to-back homeruns before finally getting his act together and striking out the final two batters to end the nightmare. (In his defense, Cleto managed a 1-2-3 8th inning and Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.)
Two Baby Bird debuts plus a field of Cardinal youngsters made last night’s game a must-see for those of us who follow the minors as well as the big boys. 2010 Memphis mentionables playing last night included Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, Tony Cruz (catcher, starting at 3rd base! But that’s another story…) and pitcher Lance Lynn; Pete Kozma (spent last year in AA Springfield) and as mentioned, Maikel Cleto (low A last year).
A few more fleeting thoughts…
- Even if the camera adds 10 pounds, I say Lance Lynn still packed on an extra cheeseburger or 50 since I watched him strikeout 16 batters in his PCL Championship game last September. Noticeably heftier. (I’m a dietitian. I notice this stuff.)
- Maikel Cleto can throw hard and fast. Great. But in my opinion, he should be refining his control back in Memphis. He didn’t look ready. My nerves were shot from watching his 7th inning. Someone remind me, why he was called up so quickly? note: after I wrote this and before it was posted, moves were made by the Cardinals that included optioning Cleto back to AA Springfield. Cleto skips Memphis on his way back as well? I will just be content to be confused on the whole Cleto promotion idea. onward…
- our defense….. *sigh*
On a happier note: This weekend the Memphis Redbirds are heading my way to play a 4-game series against the Oklahoma City Redhawks. *happy dance* I keep trying to convince my family how amazingly wonderful this is – the chance to see the young guys on the verge of breaking into the Majors, to watch them play in a more relaxed environment, the opportunity to begin building early baseball memories of these players.
….They just pat me on the head and give me an understanding smile. But they do go to the games with me. Win/win. ;)
It’s ok though. Even if they aren’t quite the baseball fanatics that I am, I plan to keep dragging them to the ballpark. And someday soon, when we are again watching another baby bird make his Major League debut, they’ll feel that special excitement that comes from remembering these AAA games.
Viva El Baby Birds!….and Go Cardinals!