Baseball: Former Silver Creek standout Cole Winn impresses in MLB debut

Apr. 18—Former Silver Creek standout pitcher Cole Winn made his major league debut for the Texas Rangers on Sunday, impressing over 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

The 24-year-old righty's big-league arrival came on the road against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park — tasked with cleaning up a one-out, bases-loaded mess in the seventh inning.

He allowed an inherited runner to score on a groundout before recording his first MLB strikeout on a 97-mph fastball past 2020 American League MVP Jose Abreu.

He followed it up with a 1-2-3 eighth: Highlighted by getting future Hall of Fame second baseman José Altuve to fly out.

"I was proud of him," Texas manager Bruce Bochy told reporters a day after Winn's debut. "That was not the situation I wanted to bring him in, but he handled it so well. He's got the stuff to pitch up here. Now, it's just believing you can pitch here and have that confidence."

The 69-year-old manager has long been known to get the best out of his pitching staff. He guided an improved Rangers rotation to a World Series title last year. And before that, from 2010-14, he led the San Francisco Giants to three titles in a five-year span on the back of a star rotation and bullpen.

Winn's performance — though he was critical of himself for allowing an inherited runner to score — was good enough to keep him on the Rangers' active roster at least through Thursday night.

"To be able to come out here and pitch on a major league mound in a major league game," Winn said in the visiting clubhouse afterward, "it's really special."

The Longmont native played his first three seasons of high school baseball for the Raptors before moving to Orange County, California, for his senior year.

He was named the BoCoPreps player of the year in 2017 after going 9-1 with a 1.22 ERA and 100 strikeouts across 51 2/3 innings in his final season at Silver Creek. He also became the first player to win the Gatorade player of the year in two different states — Colorado in 2017 and California in 2018.

But it hasn't been easy for him since. After he was selected 15th overall by the Rangers in the 2018 MLB Draft, the organization's 2023 14th-ranked prospect by had largely struggled in the minors. All the things he was heralded for out of high school — a biting fastball, an arsenal of swing-and-miss, off-speed stuff — suddenly wasn't fooling anyone.

In 100 appearances in the minors, he was just 26-23 with a 5.40 ERA across 383 2/3 innings.

But after his debut, there's reason for optimism.

"He's bumping 96 (mph) with a good breaking ball and a good split that works here," Bochy said. "I think he has good control when he's got that confidence. So, he should feel good about that outing."

The next time Winn could see big-league action is this weekend in Atlanta against reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Braves.

If he stays up with the Rangers for some time, Winn could return to Colorado next month when the Rangers visit the Rockies at Coors Field. That series is May 10-12.