DeSalvo an artist in center of diamond
Baseball proves to be just one of youngster's many talents
NEW YORK -- Yankees rookie Matt DeSalvo has always admired tapestries and paintings.
The same goes for his uncle and brother. He said his ideal place to sit down and take out his brushes would be "in the woods, or sitting in a valley with a stream coming down, and a little brush over here."
He's the type to stop in a hallway, lean forward, tilt his head left or right, examine fine lines, wonder about shadowing, imagine the artist's vision and ask himself, "Why?"
Recently he looked at a painting of an apple, asking himself, 'How come the brushstrokes streak right? Why does the stem bend diagonally?'
"It's like having a conversation with somebody that I've never seen," DeSalvo said.
Call him curious, call him an art lover, but DeSalvo is a thinker. He reads books such as Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus" and evaluations of the works of Confucius. And while he doesn't claim to be an offshoot of Albert Einstein, DeSalvo is bright.
Maybe that's how he tossed a three hitter against the Seattle Mariners in his Major League debut, by staying a mental step ahead of the batters. As French philosopher Benjamin Constant once wrote, "Art achieves a purpose which is not its own."
To DeSalvo, that purpose may be his presence on the mound.
Take his start on Monday, when he gave up just one hit after the first inning but finished with a no-decision against the Mariners.
If his Major League debut were a canvas, it would be spotted with five baseballs -- one for each pitch he throws -- including a fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and forkball. And the message hidden in this painting -- the one that answers "Why?" -- would be a silent shout to Seattle's lineup: Tonight's not your night.
"Nothing really fazed him," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said after DeSalvo's performance against the Mariners. "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."
The beginnings of DeSalvo's success may have started outside of the baseball diamond. He'll see a guitarist playing and get an urge to try it out. He'll see a sculptor sculpting and decide to give it a shot.
That's just DeSalvo, and that's probably why he throws five pitches and tinkers with more -- a huge reason why he's with the Yankees.
"You would be amazed at the things that you can do," he said. "If there's something that interests me, I'll dive into it."
He also said he likes to learn from the best because that's how he learns at an accelerated pace. As far as pitching in a Yankees rotation goes, mark "check."
DeSalvo's pitches have a deceitfulness to them, said Yankees backup catcher Wil Nieves. His pitches dart slightly away from their target as they approach the plate, inducing hitters to hit balls off-center. Nieves has witnessed this in both the Major and Minor Leagues, and he said in March that DeSalvo may have had the best pitches in Spring Training.
Think about that: Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina ... Matt DeSalvo. It's like a Picasso painting -- a bit awkward but undeniably brilliant.
Before joining the Yankees rotation, DeSalvo went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Just another sign that Nieves' words for DeSalvo this spring could ring truer every fifth day this season: "People will know his name before long."
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.