Chi Chi makes unforgettable debut
ARLINGTON -- Tossing five no-hit innings is a great way for any pitcher to start a ballgame, but it's an exceptional way to start a Major League career.
Making his debut Saturday night, touted Rangers prospect Alex Gonzalez held the Red Sox hitless until the sixth inning and earned his first victory as the Rangers cruised to an 8-0 decision. Gonzalez wasn't perfect -- he walked five and needed 102 pitches to get through his 5 2/3 innings -- but he was poised beyond his 23 years.
"Complete composure," manager Jeff Banister said of the rookie's demeanor in his first outing.
After allowing two hits in the sixth, "Chi Chi" departed to a standing ovation from the 42,831 at Globe Life Park.
"I feel great -- I made my debut, went as long as I could and it was awesome walking off, even though I didn't finish the inning, walking off to that cheering," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez blazed a short path to the big leagues after the Rangers selected him in the first round of the 2013 Draft. He made 14 starts in Class A leagues in 2013, 25 starts for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco in 2014, and just eight starts at Triple-A Round Rock this season before being called up.
He also had a strong Spring Training this year, leading the Rangers with 18 2/3 innings pitched and posting a 1-0 record and 2.89 ERA over five appearances.
"It's a testament to our development system and what they've done with this man and how they developed him and got him ready to come up here and ready to pitch," Banister said.
On Saturday, Gonzalez issued free passes in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings, but worked out of trouble each time.
"You could see in the first inning, probably a little anxiety, a little amped, but he settled in and did exactly what we saw in Spring Training," Banister said. "All in all, it was a really nice night for Chi Chi."
Gonzalez's first outing in the Majors saw him facing a Boston lineup filled with experienced hitters including Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, to name a few. Ortiz collected the first hit off Gonzalez with a leadoff double in the sixth, but Gonzalez threw out Ortiz at home on a fielder's choice for the second out. Napoli then doubled to put men on second and third with two outs.
After that, Banister strode to the mound to make a pitching change, bringing Tanner Scheppers in to relieve Gonzalez. But first, the manager had a few words for the newest Ranger.
"He was getting ready to hand me the ball," Banister said, "and I said, 'No, no, you can wait.' I told him what a great job he did for us and how special it was, and I asked him to listen to the noise of the crowd. I said, 'That's for you.' I said, 'It's getting ready to get real loud. Don't ever forget this.'"
Gonzalez said he was well aware he had a no-hitter through the first five innings, and he knew he was having a night to remember. Still, he was surprised by the reaction he got.
"I wasn't expecting the loudness of it," Gonzalez said. "But it was awesome having the support of Ranger nation and having them scream for me and support me, even though I'm the new guy, making my debut. It just made me feel at home. I want to be here and stay here."