Jorgensen’s grand slam helps Reds’ 29-year-old rookie pitcher win debut, 9-3 over Marlins
CINCINNATI (AP)—Tom Shearn was living in a camper outside a minor-league ballpark—saving money as the season wound down—when he got the call he feared would never come. The Cincinnati Reds wanted him.
Finally, somebody wanted him.
Two days shy of his 30th birthday, after 11 seasons knocking around the minors and another recovering from elbow surgery, the right-hander got his chance—and a win, too. Shearn led the Reds to a 9-3 victory over the Florida Marlins on Sunday.
The most difficult part was getting there.
“It was tough, up until this day,” Shearn said, moments after a clubhouse attendant handed him a game ball as a keepsake. “Makes it all worth it.”
The catcher who knows him best helped him capture the moment. Ryan Jorgensen’s first career grand slam gave Shearn an early lead that amounted to breathing room, and sent the Reds on their way to their sixth straight victory.
Cincinnati is on its best surge of the season. Since interim manager Pete Mackanin took over on July 3, the Reds have the NL’s best record at 29-19.
“The Little Red Wagon is doing all right,” Ken Griffey Jr. said, playing off the Big Red Machine teams of the ’70s.
Florida isn’t. The foundering Marlins hadn’t been swept three games in Cincinnati since 2001. They’ve lost 11 of 12, falling a season-high 17 games under .500 at 57-74.
“I think a week has gone by and we haven’t done but one or two things that’s quality,” reliever Lee Gardner said. “We’re not playing the game. It’s one inning here or there. We’ve got the ability to do it. We talk a great game.”
Shearn (1-0) now has some big-league stories to tell about how he kept the Reds on the upswing.
The right-hander was living in the groundskeeper’s camper at Triple-A Louisville—a moneysaving move—when the Reds decided to call him up on Saturday. He drove to town on Saturday night, then got a few restless hours of sleep on reliever Gary Majewski’s couch before his big day.
He didn’t mind.
“I’ll sleep in my car to pitch in the big leagues right now,” he said.
It worked out. Shearn limited the Marlins to four hits and a pair of walks in seven innings, including Dan Uggla’s three-run homer.
Jorgensen, his catcher at Louisville before an Aug. 14 promotion, hit his grand slam in the first inning off rookie right-hander Daniel Barone (0-2) to help Shearn settle in. Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion also homered off Barone.
The Reds’ offense has been the foundation of the winning streak, scoring 46 runs during the six-game span.
In a matchup of two pitchers called up this month, age won out.
The 24-year-old Barone made his debut on Aug. 10. His fourth start was by far the worst of the bunch—three innings, nine runs, three home runs.
“I was leaving pitches up,” Barone said. “I couldn’t get the ball inside today. When I tried to go in, I’d leave it over the plate.”
Shearn grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and bounced around the minors for 11 seasons and 352 appearances before getting his chance. The stocky, 6-foot-4 pitcher wore No. 64—a number usually seen in spring training—and started the game with a called strike to Hanley Ramirez.
He’s the oldest Reds pitcher to make his big-league debut since 1956, when Pat Scantlebury did it at age 38. Shearn also was the fifth member of Louisville’s starting rotation to make the jump to Cincinnati this season.
He had some help.
“I’ve probably caught 95 percent of his starts over the last two years,” Jorgensen said. “I think knowing how he pitches is important.”
The second time through the Marlins’ order, Shearn got in trouble. Uggla hit a three-run homer in the third inning, his second homer in his last four at-bats. With Jorgensen calling the pitches, Shearn settled down and held on.
Barone singled in the third inning for his first major league hit. … OF Jeremy Hermida extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games. … The Reds optioned RHP Kirk Saarloos to Louisville to open a roster spot for Shearn. … Shearn was the oldest Reds player to make his major league debut since outfielder Greg Tubbs did it in 1993 at age 30. Shearn will get at least one more start for the Reds. … Jorgensen has three career hits in the majors, two of them homers. … SS Jeff Keppinger’s hitting streak ended at 14 games.
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