C-turned-P Weems hits 97 in debut

July 29th, 2020

OAKLAND -- On a night the A’s will quickly want to forget, had a night he'll never forget.

After spending nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, hitting the reset button on his career in 2016 as he converted from catcher to pitcher, Weems took the mound at the Coliseum in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Rockies and made his Major League debut. The right-hander allowed two runs in his opening frame, but he soon settled in by retiring the final eight batters he faced over three innings of work.

As will be the case with all players making their big league debut in 2020, Weems’ came under the unique circumstance of having no fans in attendance. It wasn’t quite the atmosphere the right-hander visualized as a kid when he used to dream of taking the mound in a Major League stadium.

“To say it was everything I dreamed of would not be the correct words,” Weems said. “When you’re little and dreaming of being in the big leagues, you’re thinking of a crowded stadium and going into that moment with everyone making noise. It was still exciting. Even though there was no fans, I just focused on doing my job.”

The A’s bullpen did its best to simulate the usual roar of the Coliseum crowd for the A’s newcomer, with an ovation as he took the mound to the sound of “Money” by Pink Floyd. Weems was disappointed his parents could not witness his first game in person, though he knew his entire family was up late watching him back home in Columbus, Ga.

“It was bittersweet when I told my family I would be a big leaguer and it set in that they wouldn’t be able to see my debut,” Weems said. “It’s kind of sad because this is something I worked for and wouldn’t be possible without my mom and dad. I know they would have done anything to be here. It just feels good.”

Before Tuesday, the most action Weems had seen in a game this season was between innings when he would rise from the bullpen to warm up A’s left fielders. Taking over for starting pitcher Daniel Mengden, who allowed three runs over four innings, Weems showed off the stuff that earned him a spot on the A’s 30-man roster, as he struck out his first batter, Trevor Story, on a 97 mph fastball. The ball used on the strikeout pitch was then retrieved by A’s closer Liam Hendriks, who had it authenticated and returned to Weems after the game as a keepsake.

“To start it off with a K was awesome,” Weems said. “When it all happened, I didn’t think about it. Now that the game is over, it’s pretty cool that I struck out Trevor Story for my first batter of MLB.”

A 2011 third-round pick by the Red Sox, Weems entered Spring Training with the A’s as a non-roster invitee. He was a longshot to make the club with plenty of talented arms up and down the roster, yet Weems did enough to impress the A’s both in Spring and Summer Camp with a nice mix of pitches that included a changeup, slider and curveball to go with the fastball. He threw all four pitches on Tuesday, getting through his outing on 33 pitches, as he allowed two runs on four hits. He issued no walks and struck out three.

“A little bit of a tough start but he finished up well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He threw at a high velocity and got control of his breaking pitch. I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

Weems’ outing provided a silver lining for the A’s. Entering the night with a depleted bullpen that had combined to throw 20 1/3 innings with just one earned run in a dominant showing during the season-opening four-game series against the Angels, the 27-year-old rookie’s three innings allowed the A’s top relievers a day of rest.

Offensive woes
Despite racking up eight hits, the A’s struggled to come up with one in the clutch. The offense went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners stranded.

, who is off to a major slump, remained hitless for the season, as he went 0-for-4 and was responsible for five of the A’s runners who were left on base. In a year in which Davis is looking bounce back after posting several career lows in 2019, the slugger is 0-for-15 to begin the 2020 campaign.

“He’s just pressing some,” Melvin said. “If you watch his batting practice, it’s good. But it’s got to transfer over to the game. It’s a little bit of a struggle for him right now.”