'He's a big part of our future': Eury K's 7 in debut

May 13th, 2023

MIAMI -- Years from now when Marlins No. 1 prospect Eury Pérez reminisces about his Major League debut, what he’ll remember most is his first strikeout -- a 98.1 mph four-seamer on the inside corner to freeze Tyler Stephenson to end the first inning. Afterward, he flashed a smile as big as his 6-foot-8 frame and pumped his fist while walking back to the dugout.

As an 8-year-old, Pérez dreamt of moments like that while playing plaquita on the streets of his hometown of Santiago, Dominican Republic. Pérez would go on to surrender a pair of solo homers over 4 2/3 innings to receive a no-decision in Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Reds at loanDepot park.

“I think you don't know what you're going to do at the big league level until you actually do it, and he proved to himself that he's more than capable of getting guys out up here, and he's ready,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “That's a good lineup. They've got some real hitters over there. I knew I was going to be impressed anyways, but watching it live, the future is really bright.”

The precocious Pérez became the youngest pitcher in Marlins' history (20 years, 27 days), surpassing the late José Fernández, who was 20 years and 250 days when he made his debut in 2013.

But Pérez is proof that age is just a number, as he showcased maturity and elite stuff from the get-go. He fired a 98.6 mph four-seamer for a strike to open the game. By the end of his debut, his fastball’s average spin rate (2,623 rpm) was just behind Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase (2,644) for the best mark in the Majors.

“I thought he did great,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “I think he probably exceeded my expectations. Just his poise. He didn't look nervous at all. It was just another game, it looked like to him, which is super impressive, especially for such a young guy.”

The first time through the order, Pérez struck out four, walked one and allowed one hit -- a Henry Ramos one-out single in the second.

Tyler Stephenson broke the scoreless deadlock in the fourth by taking Pérez deep on a full-count four-seamer. Nick Senzel followed with a double, but Pérez buckled down. Ramos bunted for an out, Wil Myers struck out swinging and Stuart Fairchild grounded out to strand Senzel, who had stolen third.

That was the only damage against Pérez until Jake Fraley ambushed a first-pitch fastball for a two-out blast in the fifth to chase MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 overall prospect.

“[The approach was] no different than any other pitcher,” said Fraley, who later knocked the go-ahead three-run homer off Dylan Floro in the ninth. “Just see the fastball, make good decisions, and try to put the barrel on the ball. We knew he had a good fastball. Big moment for him.

"He threw really well. He had really good stuff. You see why he's such a highly touted pitcher. Like I said, he pitched well, so he did really well in his debut. Hats off to him.”

Pérez, who allowed four total hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, exited with Miami trailing, 2-1, after throwing 88 pitches (58 strikes).

Pitch counts and inning limits will continue to be a storyline moving forward. Pérez has never thrown more than 90 pitches or gone deeper than six innings in a start. His single-season high for innings was 78 in 2021. Between Double-A Pensacola and Friday’s outing, Pérez is at 35 2/3 frames in ‘23.

“I don't see going too much past there,” Schumaker said of the pitch count. “I would guess it's something under 100 throughout the year. Obviously, there's constant conversation with [general manager] Kim [Ng] and her group, and our pitching coaches. We'll discuss it.

“I think it'll probably go start to start -- whether it's five days in between, every fifth day, push back. You've got to monitor and protect him. I know he'll probably want to go. That's the nature of a 20-year-old; he'd probably go tomorrow. But we've got to protect him as much as you can, because he's a big part of our future.”

That’s what Pérez’s family, friends and fellow countrymen watching on TV back home can only hope. Mentor and Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara said Pérez’s debut -- the youngest for a Dominican-born starting pitcher -- was a big deal, with partying expected around the country.

“Right now it's kind of sinking in right now that I'm a Major League player and I made my debut, but there's a lot of road ahead of me,” Pérez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “And there's a lot of things to do, and with God's help, I'm going to continue playing in MLB baseball.”