Work in Sports
Young and old alike
Marlins get solid debuts from pitchers 14 years apart
Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 11:28 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- In their first major-league game, pitchers Jason Grilli and Joe Strong got to see a triple play.
That's not what they'll remember most.
Strong, 37, became the oldest player to make his major-league debut in nearly 40 years when he took the mound in the seventh. He pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings.
Grilli, 23, pitched 6 2/3 innings. He also singled on the first pitch in his first major-league at-bat, then earned his first RBI on a fourth-inning groundout.
The two rookies stood side by side in the clubhouse afterward, slightly dazed but grinning broadly.
"I haven't slept a wink," said Strong, who arrived on a red-eye flight after being recalled from Triple-A Calgary. "The way things went tonight, I'll probably never sleep again."
Because of the two rookies, the Braves' first triple play in nearly 14 years became a footnote. They went around the horn on Mike Lowell's grounder to third in the fifth inning.
Grilli allowed 15 baserunners -- 11 hits, two walks and two hit batsmen -- but only four runs. He won for the first time since Calgary's season-opener.
"You always like to think you can beat a guy that was just called up," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said.
When Strong entered the game, he became the oldest player to make his big-league debut since pitcher Diomedes Olivo on Sept. 5, 1960, for the Pittsburgh Pirates at age 41.
"I was so happy when he took the mound, I almost started tearing up out there," Wilson said. "That's just perseverance."
The two rookies were called up to bolster Florida's injury-depleted pitching staff.
"This was great," manager John Boles said. "Those two guys gave us everything we had to have. It was just perfect."
The only other pitcher available was Antonio Alfonseca, who pitched the ninth for his 11th save, giving Florida three wins in the four-game series.
The score was 5-4 when Strong came into the game with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh. He got pinch hitter Wally Joyner to fly out, then allowed only a walk in the eighth.
"I was fine after the first pitch," Strong said. "Then after the first out I said, 'I'm holding this one for the team.'"
Strong, whose fastball was clocked at 95 mph, will make the trip with the Marlins to New York this weekend. Grilli will return Friday to Calgary, but he doesn't mind much.
"I wanted my whole life to be here," he said. "To do as well as I did, it's a great feeling."
Kevin Millwood (3-2) gave up eight hits and five runs in four-plus innings. He drove in two runs with a sacrifice bunt and a two-out single.
"I would have traded a good night on the mound for a bad night at the plate," Millwood said. "I'm struggling with my mechanics and fighting myself a little bit."
Even the Braves' first triple play since June 5, 1986, at San Diego didn't help them.
With runners at first and second in the fifth inning, Lowell hit a grounder that third baseman Jones backhanded. He took one step and stepped on third, then threw to second baseman Quilvio Veras, whose relay to first was backhanded on one hop by Andres Galarraga. Lowell was out by less than half a step.
"I just had a feeling he was going to hit the ball to me," Jones said.
The Braves, who loaded the bases with none out but failed to score twice in Wednesday's loss, stranded 12 runners.
"We're not getting the big hit at the right time," manager Bobby Cox said. "We could be scoring a ton of runs."
Notes: Braves catcher Javy Lopez was scratched from the lineup just before the game because of a sore left shoulder. His replacement, Fernando Lunar, singled for his first major-league hit in the fourth. Cox said Lopez may be able to play Friday in Philadelphia. ... Grilli's dad, former major leaguer Steve Grilli, flew down from Syracuse for the game. The elder Grilli pitched for Detroit and Toronto in 1975-79. ... Nate Bump, acquired with Grilli in the Livan Hernandez trade last year, is 0-2 with a 6.90 ERA at Double-A Portland. ... The Marlins last hit into a triple play Sept. 12, 1995 against Cincinnati.