'Today we make history': Results aside, trio of Tigers thrilled with MLB debuts
Detroit — You forget that, at their core, these are just kids realizing their lifelong dream. Their debut performance matters, of course. But that one performance will quickly fade. For the rest of their lives now Anthony Castro, Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser can say they were big-league ballplayers.
“I think that would be a really good feeling,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said after that trio of pitchers made their big-league debuts Monday night. “Whether you did good or whatever, you got your feet wet in a major league game and that’s pretty cool.”
Results-wise, it wasn’t what any of them hoped. Funkhouser gave up five runs in a six-run fourth. Burrows relieved him and the first batter he faced, Maikel Franco, scorched a three-run home run. He also gave up a two-run homer to Jorge Soler.
Castro, just summoned from the taxi squad four hours before the game, gave up a two-run homer to Brett Phillips.
“Mistakes get hit,” said Burrows, when asked what he took from his night. “I need to be more consistent. I threw in the exhibition game in Cincinnati and then tonight and the mistakes I’ve made were homers.
“I learned you’ve got to pitch down in the zone and you can’t throw it over the middle of the plate.”
Still, as Gardenhire predicted Monday night, the pain of getting roughed up would be quickly salved by the reality of pitching in a big-league game.
“Today we make history,” said Castro, a 25-year-old Venezuelan who hurriedly texted his account and password to his family so they could watch his debut on the MLB app. “It was amazing, everything I dreamed since I was seven or eight years old. I’m glad I got this chance.”
Castro, who speaks English fluently, was part of the three-player taxi squad in Cincinnati over the weekend, and he was on his way to join the rest of the extra players in Toledo to throw an inning of live batting practice Monday afternoon.
“Tom Prince (Toledo manager) called me to the office and he goes, ‘You are late,’” Castro said. “I said, ‘Prince, I got a message I was supposed to be here at 3:30.’ It was 2:30. He said, ‘Well, you’re late, what was it, are you tired? Traffic?’
“I was like, no, no, no.”
That’s when Prince broke into a big grin and told him he was going to Detroit to replace injured right-hander Dario Agrazal (right forearm strain).
“I was shocked,” he said. “For like five minutes I didn’t talk. I was waiting for them to tell me it was a joke. But it wasn’t. And I picked up my bag and drove (to Detroit) — just trying not to get a speeding ticket.”
That’s what it’s about, that joy.
“It was an incredible feeling,” said Burrows, the Tigers first-round pick in 2015. “A huge relief. I’ve wanted this my whole life. To be able to do it in Detroit, with my family here (in a hotel room watching on television), just so happy.
“I know I didn’t throw good and the results weren’t good, but I’m still happy I made my debut and now I can go from here and learn and be better.”
That’s exactly the advice all three got from Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson and catcher Austin Romine.
“It’s just getting their feet wet,” Romine said. “Guys work hard to get to this point, and it’s been a little longer for some others. It’s just a matter of getting that first time out of the way. I thought there were bright spots, but just get that one out of the way and they can continue to get confident and comfortable on a big-league mound.”
Gardenhire said lefty Daniel Norris, who is building up his pitch-count in Toledo after testing positive for COVID-19 and missing camp, is getting close to a return.
“He’s been talked about,” said Gardenhire, who added that Norris threw a live batting practice session Monday (50-60 pitches). “We are thinking that maybe he’ll get one more outing down there and then we’ll see.”
The Tigers are without starter Jordan Zimmermann and Agrazal, both with forearm injuries, and Michael Fulmer will be used as a three-inning opener. Most likely, when Norris gets back, he will be a full-fledged starter — but Gardenhire said that’s not set in stone.
“Everything is going to be where we’re at and where he’s at and what we feel is best for the ballclub,” Gardenhire said. “He did well in that (opener) role last year. Can we afford to do that again this year? Not sure yet.
“We’re trying to sort things out here. We’ve kind of had a storm here. We’re trying to regroup after last night.”
The Tigers used six pitchers in the 14-6 loss.
Around the horn
Agrazal had an MRI on his forearm Tuesday. Results weren’t immediately known.
…The Royals made all kinds of news Tuesday. First, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a former Tigers draft pick, is now part of the Royals ownership group. Also, the club signed former All-Star right-hander Matt Harvey to a minor-league contract.
…Two Royals pitchers who worked Monday were put on the injured list: starter Mike Montgomery and rookie Foster Griffin, who made his debut and earned his first big-league win before leaving with a forearm strain.
Royals at Tigers
First pitch: Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
►LHP Danny Duffy (0-1, 4.15), Royals: Been kind of feast of famine for him in 27 appearances against the Tigers. He has recorded more strikeouts against them (119) than any other team he’s faced, and he’s given up more home runs to them (17) than any other team.
►LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 7.20), Tigers: His opening day start got off on the wrong foot with a walk and two hit batsmen in a two-run first inning. By the third inning he’d made a mechanical adjustment and got back on track. The Royals hit him hard last year, .308 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts. And this year’s Royals team has more sock with the additions of Maikel Franco and Franchy Cordero, plus the return of Salvadore Perez.