Michael Blazek became the eighth Cardinals rookie pitcher on Saturday night to make his major-league debut. Blazek struck out two of the three men he faced in a perfect ninth inning.
But, given what his predecessors had done, this hardly should have been surprising.
None of the five Cardinals pitchers who made their big-league debuts out of the bullpen this year were scored on in their first outings and that covers Blazek, Keith Butler, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist, who may never be scored on.
Lefthander Siegrist, pitching ahead of Blazek Saturday in the Cardinals’ 4-2 loss to Texas, knocked off his eighth consecutive scoreless outing, covering 8 2/3 innings. Siegrist is here, in large part, because he can get lefthanded hitters out and, indeed, lefthanded hitters are two for 15 against him. But righthanded hitters are nothing for 13.
Righthander Butler has been scored on in just one of nine outings and Maness threw his eighth double-play ball on Saturday. He has worked just 23 innings.
The rookie starters should be included, too. Tyler Lyons pitched six spotless innings in his first start before being scored on and John Gast and Michael Wacha had five and four, respectively, before allowing a run.
Staff ace Adam Wainwright has witnessed this and, understandably, is amazed. “When I was coming up, everyone was giving up three (runs) in the first inning they ever pitched, including me,” Wainwright.
“Brad Thompson. Randy Flores. All of us gave up three in the first inning. Victor Diaz of the Mets hit a three-run homer off me. I faced him 100 times in the minor leagues and he never hit a home run off me.”
The conclusion Wainwright has drawn about this crop of rookies is, “They don’t scare. Blazek looked like a 10-year vet today. Siegrist, too. He’s been great.”
Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said, “We’ve got a lot of exciting pitching. They’re getting groomed the right way. You plug them in and see what we’ve got.”
Other than Shelby Miller’s one-hit shutout on May 10, Saturday’s game marked the first Cardinals game pitched entirely by rookie pitchers this season (Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are holdovers but still rookies).
Blazek didn’t get to make his debut the first time around as he warmed up a couple of times but didn’t pitch in a tenure from May 26-29 before he was sent back to the minors.
But with Rosenthal getting a night off after working two innings on Friday, Blazek got the call when the game still was in doubt.
The Las Vegas native said he felt nervous coming in from the bullpen, “but once you threw your first pitch, it kind of went away.”
Addressing how he and his fellow rookies have performed, Blazek, seemingly a steal as the 1,068th player taken in the 2007 draft, said, “I think it just kind of shows you what we have in our organization and the lower-level players we’re developing.”
Counting Maness, Siegrist and Blazek, only 10 Rangers, the minimum, batted over the final 3 1/3 innings. Maness, who got out of a bases-loaded spot in the sixth, erased a seventh-inning single by Nelson Cruz with a double-play ball to Adrian Beltre.
Siegrist didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in the eighth, striking out one. The ball never got to the grass in the ninth either as Blazek added a routine grounder to first to his two strikeouts.
Manager Mike Matheny, summarizing the trio, said, “Pretty impressive. Seth gets out of a big situation. He’s been able to do that on a pretty consistent basis. I thought that was Siegrist’s best breaking ball yet. That’s something that he, Derek and Yadi (Molina) have been working on pretty deliberately.
“And … what more could you ask for from Blazek? That was a good first day out and, hopefully, what we’re gong to continue to see.”