Tovar tallies 2 quick hits, makes history in MLB debut

Rockies No. 2 prospect the latest rookie to gain experience amid youth movement

September 24th, 2022

DENVER -- The Coors Field crowd welcomed Ezequiel Tovar in his first at-bat in the second inning on Friday night with full volume and hope, as if the Rockies’ future at shortstop depended on the club's No. 2-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Tovar kept them clapping with a single on the first pitch he saw off Padres starter Sean Manaea.

And he slashed the second pitch he saw for his second hit in the fourth inning, becoming the first Rockies player to record hits on his first two Major League pitches. He also joined White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease as the only players since 2000 to accomplish the feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

”I feel really ... confident, the way I did it,” Tovar said, with bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz interpreting. “The first two pitches I saw, I got hits. 

“... Honestly, I had no idea [about the feat] ... but that’s part of my game: be aggressive and ready to swing at the first pitch.”

Tovar -- who at 21 years and 53 days is the youngest position player in Rockies history -- spoke while still in his dirty No. 14 uniform, smiling before dashing out to join a sellout crowd in enjoying postgame fireworks with his wife, Laura.

While not a rookie, another young player -- who has had his highs and lows -- won it for the Rockies. Alan Trejo, who moved from shortstop to second base upon Tovar’s callup, delivered a 10th-inning walk-off single for a 4-3 victory.

Now, the other rookies in the young Colorado lineup, including starting pitcher Ryan Feltner, can tell Tovar that this game is not all hits and ovations. The preceding four-game series sweep at the hands of the Giants, in which the Rockies featured even more rookies, serves as a cautionary example.

But who needs warnings on a night of unbridled fun?

“No doubt, I was nervous from [the first pitch],” Tovar said. “But that’s the beauty of this game. I had those nerves, and I embraced them.”

There was every reason to use lesser-experienced players, as the Rockies sit in last place in the National League West, with veterans José Iglesias and Brendan Rodgers recently placed on the injured list to join Kris Bryant.

Yonathan Daza -- who hit a two-run triple and made two standout catches in center field -- Randal Grichuk and Elias Díaz were the only starters Friday who entered 2022 having spent a wire-to-wire season in the Majors.

But the younger Rockies weren’t just playing for their job evaluations. The result -- Colorado’s 14th victory over San Diego in the past 15 meetings at Coors Field -- dropped the Padres to the final National League Wild Card spot and reduced their lead over the Brewers, who are on the outside looking in, to two games.

“We’ve talked about what this series means for the Padres, and the Phillies and the Brewers, and the integrity of the championship season,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “So it’s good for these guys to first of all, play in a Major League game. As they go through this season, that’s an added bonus -- to know what the other side is playing for.”

Trejo, a San Diego State product, reveled in embodying a spoiler by delivering the game-winner off Padres reliever Adrian Morejon.

“I had a couple buddies of mine who are San Diego State alumni text me, ‘Please don’t beat the Padres -- they’re trying to make the playoffs,’” Trejo said. “So that felt really good. That was the first thing I thought about after that at-bat.”

While Tovar can go to sleep on his first two hits, the other rookies -- and every player in the history of this great game -- have had the fitful sleep that comes with a Major League slump. Elehuris Montero, Michael Toglia and Sean Bouchard are all hitting below .250. Toglia’s double-play grounder ended a bases-loaded threat in the first inning. All have shown what earned them the chance, and all have had the league show them what’s left to learn.

Feltner, though, is beginning to turn his rough rookie season around. In his previous start, a road victory over the Cubs, Feltner grinded through 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs. On Friday, he went five innings and held the Padres to two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk. He looked at the youthful makeup of his teammates and felt comfort.

“I looked around at one point during the game and realized a lot of these guys, I came up with,” said Feltner. “We’re starting to get a really good group of guys, a really good young crew.”