DeSalvo shines in debut
Right-hander turns heads with impressive start vs. Seattle
NEW YORK -- Matt DeSalvo might have thought his big-league dreams died on a cold January day, when the Yankees removed him from their 40-man roster to make room for backup infielder Miguel Cairo.
As it turns out, they were just beginning. DeSalvo, 26, made his Major League debut in style, spinning seven innings of one-run, three-hit ball at the Mariners on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
"Coming into this season, I didn't think I'd ever be sitting here in this locker room," DeSalvo said after the game, a 3-2 Yankees loss. "Those questions, those doubts, they're out of my mind now."
The performance continued a season of renewal for the right-hander, who'd posted a 3-0 record with a 1.05 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before earning his first big-league promotion, appearing excited but controlled in an 89-pitch outing Monday.
"Nothing really fazed him," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "He came out there and was happy to be here, and really came out with some good pitches. He threw the ball real well. I was really impressed with the things he did."
DeSalvo had been considered among the Yankees' top pitching prospects as the club broke Spring Training in 2006, and manager Joe Torre has stated numerous times that DeSalvo narrowly missed making the cut to come north with the club then.
Due to personal issues that affected DeSalvo's mental focus, the hurler struggled through a disappointing season, beginning the campaign 1-6 with a 7.68 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) before being demoted to Double-A Trenton on June 7.
A major wake-up call came over the winter, when the Yankees exposed DeSalvo to waivers, creating room for Cairo on the 40-man roster. Any Major League club could have taken a flier on DeSalvo, but all passed, leaving the hurler under the Yankees' control.
Invited to Major League camp in February, DeSalvo stood out for more reasons than one. An avid reader and writer, DeSalvo lent an air of intelligence to the clubhouse with literary choices like Albert Camus' 'The Myth of Sisyphus.'
But what really captured the Yankees' attention was DeSalvo's renewed mound presence, which led catcher Wil Nieves to remark in March that DeSalvo might have actually had the best stuff in camp.
That repertoire was on display Monday, as DeSalvo spotted his fastball, changeup and slider to keep the Mariners in check.
"He pitched well, no doubt about it," said Minor League pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, who made the trip from Florida to witness DeSalvo's debut. "But I believe he can pitch better than he did tonight.
"To be in your first game at Yankee Stadium, and to give you seven innings, you've got to be pretty happy about it. But there's still a better Matty DeSalvo out there."
After a first-inning run, DeSalvo tossed six zeros on the big scoreboard in left-center field, retiring the last eight batters he faced in a row.
"I was moving my fastball in and out, and they were pretty aggressive," DeSalvo said. "I got a lot of popouts, and just pounded the zone with whatever I could bring for a strike."
He left with a 2-1 lead and in line for his first Major League victory, but the Mariners pushed across a run against reliever Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth inning -- aided by a questionable call at second base -- costing DeSalvo the decision.
"It is a shame that he didn't get a win, but it was a great game for him," said acting manager Don Mattingly. "Hopefully it's a confidence-builder and a building block, and he'll continue to pitch well. He pitched great for us."
DeSalvo became the sixth rookie to make a start for the Yankees this season, following Kei Igawa, Chase Wright, Phil Hughes, Darrell Rasner and Jeff Karstens. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are the first team to start six different rookies in their first 30 games of the season since the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1890.
Trivia aside, DeSalvo said that his performance should serve as a pretty clear indication that there's plenty of Major League ready talent waiting in the wings.
"There's a lot of guys that are in Triple-A that have good arms and good stuff," DeSalvo said. "They can pitch here. It's all about getting that opportunity, and when you get that opportunity, what you do with it. I'm sure there's a bright future still ahead that you guys haven't seen yet."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.