HOUSTON -- He packed his bags and his dreams and boarded a plane to Boston last weekend in anticipation of his Major League debut at Fenway Park. No sooner did Jack Mayfield arrive in Beantown did he get a gut-wrenching phone call: the Astros wouldn’t need him after all.
But Mayfield didn’t have to wait too long to finally make his Major League debut. He was told Sunday night after being scratched from the lineup at Triple-A Round Rock he was headed to Houston. Mayfield started at second base, doubled in his first big league plate appearance and later drove in his first run, finishing 1-for-4 in the Astros’ 6-5 win over the Cubs on Monday.
“It was amazing. It went by so fast,” Mayfield said. “It’s hard to remember, but it was my third pitch, and I was fortunate to get enough barrel to hit it off the wall. It’s a big sigh of relief to get the first knock and just kind of relax and enjoy the game a little more. It really helped me slow the game down.”
The Astros made the move to purchase the contract of Mayfield after placing Aledmys Diaz on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain -- something they nearly did a week earlier in Boston.
Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole said the team grabbed whatever it could find to celebrate Mayfield’s big day. Mayfield was also forced to wear the Player of the Game robe during his postgame interview at the request of veteran Josh Reddick.
“He got the robe, he gave us a speech and told us what he saw out there,” Cole said. “He got doused with some beer and Listerine and shower soap and ketchup and mustard and a whole bunch of other stuff.”
Mayfield’s wife, Jackie, and 17-month-old son, Jackson, were in the stands with several other members of his family from his hometown of Del Rio, Texas. The 28-year-old Mayfield said his wife cried and screamed when he told her the news Sunday night.
“His story is one to be told, because it’s improbable,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He never thought he was going to get the opportunity. We teased him last week with almost an opportunity. I can only imagine the emotions he went through. We give so much attention to prospects and high Draft picks who explode onto the scene, and this guy methodically went through the Minors.”
Undrafted out of the University of Oklahoma, Mayfield had more than 2,200 at-bats in the Minor Leagues before his debut Monday. He shattered his left orbital socket when he was hit below the left eye with a pitch late in the 2017 season.
“I’ve never given up,” he said. “That’s always been my mentality is to keep grinding and keep working hard and good things will happen. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve had injuries, I’ve had my orbital socket blown out. It all paid off in the end for this one moment. The best thing is we won the game. That makes it so much sweeter.”
Meanwhile, Hinch said there’s a chance Diaz could be out for longer than the 10 days allotted for the injured list because he re-injured his hamstring.
“It’s unfortunate that we lose him for at least 10 days, but it opens up an opportunity for a really good story with Mayfield getting up here for the first time,” he said.
“It’s been a long road," Mayfield said, "and I’m just very fortunate to be here and can’t thank the Astros enough to give me this opportunity."
Altuve might need third game
All-Star second baseman José Altuve won’t rejoin the Astros on Tuesday, Hinch said following Monday’s game. Altuve has been out since May 10 with a left hamstring strain.
Altuve, who’s on a Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock, went 1-for-5 with a run scored and two strikeouts in his second game with the Express on Monday in Nashville. He’s 2-for-9 in two games and will likely need another game.
“We were really playing it by ear to see how long he was going to go in the game,” Hinch said prior to Altuve’s second game Monday. “He got his fifth at-bat, played defense, made a couple of plays and had to score from second and did some positive things on the field. We still don’t know until after today what the next plan is for him.
“He’s doing OK. I think he said he feels better. His confidence has grown that he can play with a little more freedom, but we’re going to need to see another full game out of him today in the first game of a doubleheader for us to feel comfortable bring him back to this level.”