Last night, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon made his major league debut. In his first start, the 26-year-old tossed seven no-hit innings, walking three and striking out three.
The right-hander featured a fastball thrown in the mid-90s with heavy downward angle mixed with a hard cutter/slider. These pitches were used frequently to set up his low-80s changeup, which he threw with great side-sinking action. This led to a lot of hitters taking off-balance swings that made for soft, easy outs.
After Poncedeleon retired the side in the 7th and totaling 116 pitches, interim manager Mike Shildt lifted him from the game. Reliever Jordan Hicks gave out a single in the 8th inning to give up the no-hit bid. Closer Bud Norris gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth to give up the lead and the game to the Reds, 2-1.
Though disappointing to not see Poncedeleon get a shot at completing his masterpiece, it was an easy call for Shildt. Poncedeleon was reaching an undesirable pitch count in a close game that happened to be his first in the MLB. As well, his spot in the order came up in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game with the Cardinals looking to build a cushion into their lead.
The Cardinals may not be a competitor in the pennant race this year, but Shildt made the only decision he could responsibly make with the young pitcher.
But a high pitch count was certainly the least of Poncedeleon’s worries. His chance at making the big leagues was nearly cut short only 15 months ago.
Danger on the Hill
Seven no-hit innings in your MLB debut is impressive no matter the circumstances. It’s impressive when Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw put up seven no-hit innings in the middle of June.
It jumps two or ten notches when this happened to you barely over a year ago (apologies for the quality, it is the best video I could find):
Struck by the ball on his right temple in a May 9, 2017 game while playing for Triple-A Memphis, Poncedeleon was taken off the field on a stretcher. He found himself undergoing surgery less than a day later to relieve pressure forming around his brain. He was in intensive care for the week after and was completely inactive from baseball activities for three months.
The Healing Powers of Wolverine
And yet, he had progressed so much so quickly that by February 2018, he was invited the Cardinals spring training camp to compete for a spot on the major league roster.
In Triple-A Memphis this year, he holds a 9-3 record with a 2.15 ERA while also averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He’s simply having the best season of his career, and he only has to deal with a little brain trauma to get there. So simple!
So here’s a hat tip to you, Daniel Poncedeleon. I look forward to following your success in the future.
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