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Big league debut long time coming for Gamboa

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- The first two pitches that Eddie Gamboa threw went right past catcher Luke Maile and all the way to the backstop. Gamboa had appeared in 236 Minor League games spanning nine seasons, all in the hopes that someday he'd get to toe a Major League mound.

At age 31, that dream finally came true for the knuckleballer on Friday vs. the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. And the first three batters he faced were all 2016 All-Stars. Gamboa recorded one strikeout, walked two and allowed a hit before being pulled after one-third of an inning. The results were secondary to the moment, though. And they didn't impact the Rays' 8-3 win over the first-place Jays.

Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- The first two pitches that Eddie Gamboa threw went right past catcher Luke Maile and all the way to the backstop. Gamboa had appeared in 236 Minor League games spanning nine seasons, all in the hopes that someday he'd get to toe a Major League mound.

At age 31, that dream finally came true for the knuckleballer on Friday vs. the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. And the first three batters he faced were all 2016 All-Stars. Gamboa recorded one strikeout, walked two and allowed a hit before being pulled after one-third of an inning. The results were secondary to the moment, though. And they didn't impact the Rays' 8-3 win over the first-place Jays.

Full Game Coverage

"It's the same as every other game, really," Gamboa said of how the game felt. "The only difference is really when guys get on, the game does speed up on you. But it was fun. It was pretty nerve-wracking out there, but happy to get one out and hopefully that's going to be one of many."

Video: Gamboa gets the call

Gamboa was the second-oldest Rays player to make his MLB debut -- the only older player, Jim Morris, has a Hollywood movie based on his story. Rays manager Kevin Cash said Gamboa will get more opportunities to show what the knuckleball can do, adding that it was exciting to see the pitcher's debut unfold.

The last time Gamboa wore an MLB uniform, in April of last season for the Orioles, he never got into a game. He arrived at Camden Yards in the middle of the contest and was gone less than 48 hours later. The Blue Jays were the opponent in that series as well.

Gamboa is still hoping to meet Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey -- a pitcher Gamboa called one of the best knuckleballers ever. Gamboa said that Dickey is an idol to him. Dickey blossomed using the pitch well after his 30th birthday. Gamboa still has a long way to go to match the Cy Young Award winner, but he took the first step on Friday.

"I know he's a little bit of an older guy," Cash said. "Not your typical young guy for a callup. The nerves kick in, and understand where he's at and appreciate where he's at and where he's come from. So we'll get him out there again and let him get the knuckleball dancing."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays