"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Monday, May 23, 2005

Beginnings

I love major league debuts. The hope, the promise, the infinite possibilities as yet unsullied by reality. The one bright spot in Jason Bartlett's questionable demotion to Rochester is the opportunity it afforded 24-year-old Luis Rodriguez, a middle infielder who has been in the Twins minor league system for eight (!) years.

Young L-Rod made his major-league debut on Saturday, in a game we'd all like to forget, thanks. He entered the game in the 8th inning as a defensive substitution, and in the bottom of the inning he grounded out to third to start his major league career. But that's okay, no one else on the team was hitting, either.

Two innings in the field and one at-bat does not a proper debut make, so it was all still fresh and new yesterday when he came into the game in the 8th again, this time as a pinch-runner for Matthew LeCroy. One round of infield musical chairs later, and he was playing shortstop in the ninth inning of what was starting to look like a lost cause, with the Twins trailing 4-2. The Brewers scored in their half of the ninth, widening the gap to three runs.

Ah, but then fate conspired to give the rookie another chance. A Jones single, a Ford RBI double (Leeeeewwwwww!) and a Stewart homer (Steeeeewwwww!) later, the game was all tied up, and the UPN cameras zoomed in on Milwaukee closer Derrick Turnbow just in time for the metro area to lip read his F-bomb. Turnbow got the hook so his manager could wash his mouth out with soap, and up to the plate stepped little L-Rod, looking wide-eyed and all of twelve years old.

He got a hit. Of course he did. It was his second major league at-bat, it was the bottom of the ninth, and he'd given the Twins organization eight years of his life just to get there. He swung at the first strike he saw and zipped a smooth single into right, becoming the go-ahead run at first base. But they couldn't bring him home, and on to extra innings we went.

The Brew Crew had us chewing our fingernails in the top of the tenth, putting men on first and second with only one out and JC "Jitters" Romero on the mound. I confess, when Chad Moeller hit that hard grounder toward the second base gap, I made a sound somewhere between a groan and a squeak. This couldn't be good.

It wasn't good. It was fantastic. L-Rod flung himself forward to snare that ball, landing on his stomach, and then rolled to his side and from that horribly awkward position flipped the ball to second in time to begin the inning-ending double play. Saved!

The Twins went down quietly in the bottom of the tenth and the Brewers did likewise in the top of the eleventh. The bottom of the eleventh began with a Ford triple (Leeeeewwww!) to deep left center. This would normally have been a double, but Lew turned on the afterburners when he rounded first and saw the fielders still chasing the ball. Cuddyer drew an intentional walk, then helped himself to second base during Tiffee's at bat, which ended in a grounder to third. Stewart was intentionally walked to load the bases and get to the rookie. Guess who?

L-Rod fouled off the first pitch then hit the second sharply, but alas, his bat broke and it didn't go far. Second baseman Junior Spivey reached it in no time, but it took a funny hop and Spivey bobbled it badly. L-Rod reached first, Ford reached home, and the game was over--Twins win, 6-5.

When the winning run scored, I have a sneaking suspicion that L-Rod was feeling just a little bit pleased. But don't quote me on that.


(Jim Mone/AP)

1 rejoinders:

TwinsJunkie sounded off...

I was there, and when the ball went up the middle, I was sure it was a hit. When he lunged on it, I was glad that at least it was just an infield single. When the ball mysteriously came shooting out from underneath him, I was amazed that we might get the out at second. When the second baseman Michael Cuddyer (?) barehanded the ball and fired a strike to Morneau, I was left speechless.

Good thing for Junior Spivey, or today we might just be saying how we wasted a leadoff triple in extra innings and the kid got a double play. I'm rooting for him though.