Triston McKenzie, a 23-year-old right-hander in the Cleveland organization who had not started a regular-season contest at any level in nearly two years, made his big-league debut on Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers. It turned out to be a memorable outing.
McKenzie held the Tigers to a run on two hits and a walk. The run came on a solo homer by former Cleveland prospect Willi Castro. He threw 56 strikes on 80 pitches (70 percent), and he averaged 94.5 mph on his fastball, according to Statcast. Additionally, McKenzie coerced 17 whiffs on 40 swings, with 11 of those coming on (mostly elevated) heaters.
Take a look at some beautiful strikeout footage:
McKenzie's 10 strikeouts were the second-most in franchise history for a debuting pitcher. Luis Tiant struck out 11 New York Yankees in his debut in 1964 against the New York Yankees.
As mentioned in the introduction, McKenzie had not pitched in the regular season since late August 2018. He was sidelined all last season because of lat and pectoral strains. In 2018, he was sidelined early on, and limited to 16 appearances all season, because of back woes. Scouts have long been concerned that McKenzie's slender frame would lead to durability woes; to date, he's recorded one 100-inning season since being drafted in 2015.
It's worth noting that McKenzie received his opportunity on Saturday in part because of the demotions handed to Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac. That pair was optioned to the minors as punishment for violating team rules by going out during a road trip in Chicago. Adam Plutko has assumed the other rotation spot.
Cleveland entered Saturday with a 16-10 record, good for second place in the American League Central, a half game behind the Minnesota Twins.