MILWAUKEE The first time 22-year-old Trevor Rosenthal warmed up in a big league bullpen Monday, he was used as a decoy and knew he had no chance of actually getting into the game.
When the bullpen phone rang during the top of the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon, things were quite a bit different. The nerves were there and the adrenaline was pumping. It was really happening.
And Rosenthal made a favorable first impression. He allowed two walks and a hit but got two strikeouts and a fly ball out to escape the inning without damage.
Not bad for a guy who was pitching in Double-A last week.
"It was just one of those special moments I've always dreamed about and definitely will never forget," Rosenthal said. "It was very special. I am really blessed to be in this situation and it's an honor to share it with the guys on this team.
"For the first time, I was just getting my feet wet. Hopefully I can continue to build on it and work hard."
Rosenthal entered to face the heart of the Brewers lineup with the Cardinals trailing 4-2. He walked Nyjer Morgan on five pitches and allowed a first-pitch hit to Aramis Ramirez to find trouble right away.
But he recorded his first big league strikeout on a 100 miles-per-hour called third strike to Corey Hart and the ball was tossed aside for him to have as a keepsake. He then got Rickie Weeks to fly out to right for the second out.
Catcher Martin Maldonado worked a full-count walk off Rosenthal to load the bases with two outs despite all eight pitches in the at-bat being at least 98 MPH. But the rookie struck out Carlos Gomez on an 84 MPH curveball one of just three breaking balls all inning to get out of the jam with a zero on the scoreboard.
"I thought he did a great job," said manager Mike Matheny. "We put him in a tough spot there. It's a tough spot for any player the first time they get out there, a lot of different emotions. He was excited and he wanted to prove himself to us and do what he could to help us and I think he did a nice job of harnessing it and coming back and making some nice pitches.
"I like the way he goes about it and think he can be around this game for a while. It was nice to get him an opportunity and I did want to make a statement to him that he can pitch at this level and he can get himself out of a spot like that. He did it and hopefully that sticks with him."
Matheny came to the mound when Rosenthal walked Maldonado to load the bases and with Marte warming in the bullpen, some thought he might pull him from the game. But the skipper left the rookie to work out of his own jam. And he did just that.
"Definitely that's huge that he has that kind of confidence even to have me here in the first place and then to keep me in that situation and have confidence that I'll get that out," Rosenthal said.
All but five of Rosenthal's 26 pitches were clocked at 97 MPH or faster. He hit 99 MPH five times and 100 once. It was only one outing, but the flame-throwing right-hander looks like he may be able to help a struggling bullpen.
"It's still baseball," Rosenthal said. "I went out there and had the same focus and tired to have fun and enjoy the moment."