Braves pitcher Joel De La Cruz maybe a rookie, but he certainly didn’t pitch like one on Wednesday night. He seemed unfazed when making his Major League debut, after being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
“It’s the same game,” he said through an interpreter. “You’ve got to throw strikes and get the ball over the plate.”
In six innings, he allowed three runs and seven hits. He had his sinker working down in the zone and that allowed him to keep the Indians off-balanced at the plate.
His only mistakes were a two-run single by Indians infielder Jason Kipnis and a sixth inning home run to Lonnie Chisenhall. The Kipnis single bounced off of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia’s glove and trickled into left field. It gave the Indians an early lead.
De La Cruz ultimately took the 3-0 loss for the Braves, but he did enough for interim manager Brian Snitker to be impressed.
“He probably was better than when I had him in Gwinnett earlier in the year,” Snitker said. “I think that he was in the strike zone better and he backed it up. He had eight innings and I talked to Johnny (Moses) the other day and he was really good in his last outing. So, hopefully we are getting him on a nice little role.”
While it may have been his first actual start, De La Cruz actually made his professional debut in rookie ball with the Brewers at age 17.
He would later spend most of nine minor league seasons in four organizations, including one year with the Nationals and six with the Yankees. This year, he spent the first half of his Braves tenure in Gwinnett.
Overall, he has a 28-26 record and 4.15 ERA in 173 games (42 starts) in the minors. So, he seemed prepared as he went through his normal routine with catcher Tyler Flowers.
“Even in the pen — he didn’t throw much in the pen, which I assume is his normal,” Flowers said. “So it was kind of good to see him stay in his normal routine and everything. But he seemed calm, like he’d been there and done it a number of times. That’s a good way to approach it – on a bigger stage, that’s the only difference.”
De La Cruz says he is happy for with his start hopes to improve his next time out.
“I thank God for this opportunity,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the Braves for getting this chance. Obviously I enjoyed it. I would’ve loved for the team to have gotten a win. God willing I’ll be able to stick around and hopefully contribute to the team and maybe get another chance to go out there and pitch.”
He may not have to wait long as Snitker assumes that he will get the ball again on Monday.
“Yeah, I assume right now that we are probably looking at him on Monday,” he said. “All things considered. I saw enough to want to give him another crack.”
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