'Goosebumps': Fortes goes deep in 1st game
MIAMI -- In a Major League debut filled with highlight moments, Nick Fortes' two-run homer stood out most in the Marlins' 6-3 loss to the Pirates on Saturday night at loanDepot park.
"I was definitely overwhelmed with emotions," said Fortes, who had at least 25 family members and friends in attendance. "I had goosebumps, the chills down my spine all the way around the bases, and rounding third and realizing that I had as many people here to see that as I did. And pointing to them rounding third just means a lot to me for them to be here and seeing that."
Fortes became the eighth player in franchise history to go deep in his MLB debut when he sent Bryse Wilson's first-pitch sinker well over the left-center-field wall in the fifth inning. He received his first callup the day before alongside fellow catcher Payton Henry. According to STATS, they became the first duo to debut as starting backstops on consecutive days since the St. Louis Browns' Joe Jenkins and Jack Enzenroth on April 30 and May 1, 1914, respectively.
The 24-year-old also singled in his first at-bat, which Fortes said helped settle him down. His eighth-inning groundout to short had an exit velocity of 100 mph and an expected batting average of .330, per Statcast.
"Obviously at the plate [he] looked good," manager Don Mattingly said. "Basically it seemed like he hit everything hard tonight."
While Fortes' bat might be his calling card, he showcased his skills behind the dish. Though he was credited with a passed ball in the first, rookie right-hander Edward Cabrera was pulling pitches early on -- no easy task for a catcher. Despite that, MLB Pipeline's No. 30 overall prospect was able to get through four innings and strike out a career-high seven batters.
Later on with runners at the corners in the seventh, Fortes threw out Michael Perez trying to steal second base thanks to a 0.71-second exchange. Yoshi Tsutsugo, who was at third, didn't come home on the play.
"This is a guy who has a pretty good bat, and so we're hoping that shows through up here as well," said GM Kim Ng on Friday. "But [he's] also good with the game planning, good working with the pitchers, caring about them and all that, so we're excited."
A fourth-round pick by the Marlins in the 2018 MLB Draft, Fortes believes he is a "completely different player" with a different swing and defensive abilities and mechanics. He participated in big league Spring Training in '21 and started his season at Double-A Pensacola before advancing to Triple-A Jacksonville.
Why is this the moment for him?
"I think I've just been a lot more consistent at the plate," Fortes said. "That's what I've been happy with this year is [that] my lows have never been too low and every time that I've kind of slumped or fallen off, I've kind of found a way to get back into the swing of things. So I think that that's been a big jump in my game this year is kind of learning how to adjust and bounce back from failure. I think that's going to be the biggest thing in the long run is being able to make adjustments. That's kind of what I've been happiest with this year in terms of my game."