Former Cedar Rapids Prep Makes Major League Debut
Mitch Keller had gone 8-2 for Indianapolis, the AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, over the last two seasons. He was off to a 5-0 start this year before getting "the call." The 23-year-old Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate's first start in the big leagues began with a nightmarish first inning last night but finished strong.
Keller saw 11 Cincinnati Reds come to the plate in the first inning last night. Six of them crossed home plate, four on a grand slam. It was a tough first inning, to be sure. However, Keller righted the ship and faced only 10 hitters in his other three innings, pitching shutout baseball in the second, third, and fourth innings of his major league debut. The hole proved to be too big, as Pittsburgh lost to the Reds 8-1.
Mitch had about 40 friends and family members rooting for him at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Another 40 or so were inside the northeast Cedar Rapids Buffalo Wild Wings last night, cheering for Keller.
Just imagine what Keller's nerves must've been like, heading out to toe the rubber in a major league ballpark for the first time. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Just taking the first step out of the dugout, looking up at the stadium and realizing where I was, just trying to take it all in, it was unreal. You can’t even describe it.
The final three innings he pitched last night left very little doubt as to why Keller is one of Pittsburgh's top prospects. After the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle got a little impatient with the media picking apart the youngster's first big league start. He told them,
Let the man pitch... He got punched hard early. From that point, everything got better... He held his poise through it all and stayed aggressive.
Here's hoping Keller gets another shot and doesn't get sent back to AAA. Hurdle's comments indicate that's likely. However, even if he does get sent down, he'll be back. Soon.