‘Out-of-body experience’: Nastrini shines in MLB debut on the mound for the White Sox

‘Out-of-body experience’: Nastrini shines in MLB debut on the mound for the White Sox

CHICAGO — While the Chicago White Sox added another tally to the loss column on Monday, it was still an evening that begged the question, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

Especially in the cases of Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure.

The two rookie pitchers both made appearances on the mound Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field against the Kansas City Royals — Nastrini his Major League Baseball debut as a starting pitcher, and Leasure his sixth appearance out of the White Sox bullpen so far this year.

“It was an out-of-body experience. It was everything I hoped it to be,” Nastrini said after the game, smiling from ear-to-ear. “I don’t really have a whole lot of words to describe it, because there’s not really words I can use to describe it. That’s how fun it was.”

Before the game: Who is Nick Nastrini? A look into Monday’s call-up and starting pitcher on the mound for the White Sox

Nastrini ended up going five full innings while giving up two runs on three hits and two walks, to go with five strikeouts. The runs came on a two-out solo homer to left by Vinnie Pasquantino in the top of the fourth and Kyle Isbel’s two-out groundball single to left in the top of the fifth, which turned out to be enough for the Royals in their 2-0 victory.

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Leasure, meanwhile, pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless frame in the top of the seventh, keeping his ERA at a flat 0.00 through six games and 6.1 innings pitched in 2024.

It should be the first of many times the two share a mound in a White Sox uniform.

“I was just texting some of my friends, telling them I feel like a proud big brother,” Leasure said postgame. “That was really special for him, and it was special for me to be able to be there with him.”

Arrived in trade

Nastrini and Leasure were the two prospects who came over at the 2023 deadline in a trade that saw Chicago send Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers for them and Trayce Thompson.

Leasure made his major-league debut on March 30 against the Detroit Tigers, but the two share a history that spans back several years in the minor leagues.

Both were selected by the Dodgers in the 2021 MLB Amateur Draft and followed similar ascents through the Los Angeles farm system. They played together in the Arizona Complex League (Rookie Ball) and at Rancho Cucamonga (Low-A) in 2021, then all the way up to Tulsa (Double-A) and eventually Charlotte (Triple-A), in the White Sox system, when the two were traded to Chicago in 2023.

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For Nastrini, who had an 11-person contingent at the ballpark cheering him on Monday, those five innings were the culmination of a long grind that included everything from working within the parameters of professional baseball, to playing catch and throwing extra bullpen sessions with friends and family to get him right along the way.

“My buddy Noah out there, I play catch with him every day during the offseason. My brother Jake, he catches my bullpens,” Nastrini said. “It makes me a little emotional talking about it. He catches my bullpens with no gear on. He’s out there taking spiked sliders to the shins for me during COVID, and times after that, too.

“So, having my dad, my mom, my sister, they’re my biggest support system. My friends and family mean the absolute world to me so, it meant a lot to have them out there.”

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol remarked after the game that Nastrini’s presence stood out as far back as a fan-fest event at Guaranteed Rate Field in January. At the time, Grifol said Nastrini threw a bullpen, and in the moment, Grifol could tell “that’s what good ones look like.”

“It was an emotional day for him … But I thought he was as expected — under control, good presence, pounded the strike zone, think he retired the first 11 (batters),” Grifol said after Monday’s game. “He left a pitch out over the plate for (Vinnie] Pasquantino and a seeing-eye single by (Kyle) Isbel.

“Other than that, I thought it was a really good outing.”

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