Nobody expects a major league team to start a season with it’s five man rotation, and run all the way through till Game 162 (and beyond) with the same five guys. There’s always guys that come up from the minors, guys from the pen who have made spot starts. It happens. All the time. To every team. The Rangers took a nice stab at it this year though. They went through till May 21st until they made their first roster move involving the 25 man roster. They were the last team to do so. When the Rangers finally started making some roster moves, they were the kind you’d expect.
Neftali Feliz to the DL, bring up Tateyama. Derek Holland to the DL, bring up Tanner Scheppers. Ogando to the DL, bring up Michael Kirkman. You know, those are kind of expected. Scheppers has been talked about for awhile, give the kid a shot, see what he’s got. No surprises there.
With that in mind, it was QUITE the surprise a couple of days before this game it was announced that the Rangers would purchase the contract of Justin Grimm from AA Frisco to make the start on Saturday. Obviously Roy Oswalt isn’t ready, or he would have been pitching this. But a few of the other names down there, like Mark Hamburger or maybe Martin Perez are guys I would have expected to have been given a shot. Maybe Neil Ramirez, as he’s already on the 40 man roster. But no, we go down to AA Frisco to get Justin Grimm. I know if you’re a devout follower of Jamey Newberg’s writings then the name is not totally unfamiliar to you, if not the “sexiest” name of the group. Still, having said that, I’d say he’s mostly a “Who?” to most Rangers fans.
So when he was brought up (costing Tateyama his roster spot, and moving Feliz to the 60 day DL temporarily), I don’t think a lot of people knew what to expect. Word was the guy had some power, but pitching in AA is nothing like pitching up here. Granted, it’s the Houston Astros, so it’s probably a good place to try him out (as opposed to sending him out there in Yankee Stadium for his first start). What we got out of Grimm was nothing short of stellar, all things considered. OK, the kid is making his major league debut, so you’d expect jitters, or perhaps a horrible inning at the start. Nobody would have faulted him for those kinds of things. But he came out there, and looked like he belonged. Didn’t seem nervous to me, had a good handle on his situation. He did give up a solo home run in the first again – but that’s easily dismissable due to his circumstances. The TV focused on him when he came off the mound after the top of the first, and he appeared to throw a glance in the direction of where the home run ball went out. His expression showed irritation with that. The kind of reaction you’d expect from a veteran who was annoyed at giving up a home run. Not a new kid coming off the mound after his first EVER inning of work. That was a nice reaction.
Thing is, after he gave up the home run, it must have pissed him off, as he struck out the next five batters in a row. That included the last batter of the first, all three in the second, and the first in the third. Overall, Grim ended up with seven strikeouts for the whole game, but those five in a row were quite impressive. Even for a long time vet, five in a row is impressive. That a rookie making his major league debut strung those together – and starting in his first ever inning. To quote Darth Vader, “Impressive. Most Impressive.”
Grimm’s total line was also quite good. A technical quality start. Six innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs. But one big thing – NO WALKS. Struck out seven. The other two runs he gave up were in the fifth after a couple of doubles and a single. That’s not that bad, really. I mean, three runs over six for a kid making his major league debut? I’ll take that any time. After six, Grimm was at 88 pitches. Right at the accepted average for six innings (of 90). He seemed OK after six, and ended his last inning of the game with a 10 pitch, 1-2-3 inning. He probably could have come out for the seventh, but I guess it was more a cash of Wash & Maddux deciding to get the kid out of there on a decent outing before he had a chance to get himself into trouble. The only thing I wish would have happened is that trick that managers do some time for sending the kid out for the next inning, and taking him out before the inning actually starts, so he could have walked off with an ovation. That I would have liked to have seen happen.
When Grimm left, the Rangers were actually down 3-0, because Houston starter Lucas Harrell was holding the Rangers down pretty nicely. Going into the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers were held without any runs on a total of just two hits at that point. Given it was the Astros, you figured we’d bust out somewhere, but I felt bad for Grimm that he wasn’t going to get the chance to get a win. The Rangers took care of that in the bottom of the sixth when they woke up offensively, tagging Harrell with a five spot, the big blow being a three run Nelson Cruz home run into the Astros bullpen (actually would have gone in there with the old configuration of the bullpens too). That inning felt good for any number of reasons, but for me watching it, I felt best for Grimm, as it it meant he was still pitcher of record, and was eligible for the win.
The Rangers tacked on a few more runs (two in the 7th, one in the 8th), but the damage was done. The five spot was a big momentum changer, and was pretty much the game, right there. Robbie Ross, Mike Adamas, & Mark Lowe followed Grimm, and didn’t allow any runs to seal the win. Adams was a bit shaky with two hits in his inning, but he got the job done in the end.
I felt so good for the kid. I think most everyone expected him to be sent back to AA after the game was over, and he wasn’t. I’m writing this two days after the actual game, and he hasn’t been sent back, so it’s possible he might get another start. Can’t think of a reason why he’d still be up here on the major league roster. Really loved seeing his family in the stands, and especially them being moved down to right near Nolan Ryan’s seats.
If he does get another start, and pitches the same way, it might be hard to send him back. :)