Angels catcher Briceno homers in MLB debut

Rookie notches 2 hits, throws out runner in eventful first game

May 27th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Angels rookie catcher had a memorable MLB debut on Saturday night, atoning for defensive and baserunning miscues by launching his first career home run in the seventh inning of an 11-4 win over the Yankees.

Briceno, who started behind the plate to give regular backstop a day off, committed a throwing error in the third inning while trying to nail at second on a stolen-base attempt. In the fourth, Briceno singled to left field for his first MLB hit, but he was thrown out easily at second while attempting to stretch it into a double.

But the 25-year-old redeemed himself in the seventh, hammering a first-pitch splitter from reliever to left field for a two-run shot that extended the Angels' lead to 11-4. He also threw out Judge on a steal attempt in the fifth.

"I can't believe it," Briceno said. "I don't have words to explain how I'm feeling. To me, that was a blessing to be here on this team. I just feel really proud."

Briceno's debut was made even more special by the fact that he grew up rooting for the Yankees in Venezuela.

"When I came here the first time and I saw Yankee Stadium, it was like a dream come true," Briceno said. "But when the umpire said 'Play ball,' I just forgot about everything. I just tried to do my best for my team and for my teammates."

The Angels called up Briceno from Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday after landed on the disabled list with right knee inflammation. Rivera is expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery, so Briceno is expected to back up Maldonado in the interim.

"Jose did a great job, probably not for what you guys are looking at as far as throwing a runner out or hitting the ball hard twice, but what he did behind the plate," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he was a big reason why [starting pitcher ] got back in sync. I thought he called a great game, caught a great game. That's a great first game for Jose."