Abbott's historic MLB debut 'a dream come true'

Lefty prospect is first Reds pitcher since 1893 to log 6 scoreless IP of 1-hit ball in 1st game

June 6th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- After Great American Ball Park emptied for the evening Monday, about two dozen family and friends remained near the backstop to greet Reds rookie pitcher . The celebrational hugs were plentiful.

Of course all were deserved, especially since Abbott turned in a sensational Major League debut in a 2-0 Reds victory over the Brewers that stopped a four-game losing streak. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed one hit over six innings with four walks and six strikeouts.

"I know I’m going to have a mountain of things to go through on my phone after this, but it’s been a dream come true," said Abbott, who threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of his 23 batters.

Abbott, ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the organization and No. 95 overall by MLB Pipeline, is the first Reds pitcher since 1893, when the mound was moved to its current distance, to record at least six scoreless innings while allowing no more than one hit in a Major League debut.

Per OptaSTATS, Abbott is also the only left-hander in the Modern Era (on any team) to toss six-plus shutout innings with six-plus strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed in his MLB debut.

Milwaukee has the worst-ranked team OPS vs. left-handed pitching in MLB, and Abbott exploited it.

"I think our pitching and defense played a good game but we couldn't hit," said Brewers third baseman Luis Urías, who said of Abbott, "I think that's a moment he won't forget. After the third, fourth inning, he got control of the game."

Abbott received support in the form of two home runs against Brewers starter Julio Teheran. Stuart Fairchild cleared the left-field fence leading off the third inning. With two outs in the fourth inning, Tyler Stephenson's drive to right field made it a two-run game.

But it wasn't a night without difficulty for Abbott. A non-power arm -- who has four pitches, including a fastball in the low 90s mph range -- he was reaching 95 mph in the early innings and admitted he was amped up.

"I felt really good, honestly, too," Abbott said. "I had another day of rest because I was supposed to go Sunday [for Triple-A Louisville]. Just seeing the crowd, taking it all in, stuff definitely gets your adrenaline pumping so you throw a little bit harder than normal.”

With two outs in the top of the first inning, he and William Contreras dueled for a 10-pitch plate appearance that ended with a walk. Abbott recovered and notched his first big league strikeout on former National League MVP Christian Yelich with a 94-mph fastball on his 28th pitch of the inning.

Milwaukee's second inning began with Abbott issuing back-to-back walks. In the Minors, he would usually be more on the attack, and catcher Luke Maile came out for a mound visit.

"I thought he was coming out [of the windup] a little quick," Maile said. "I thought the arm was getting stuck. You either saw him trying to fix it at the last second with a pull-hook kind of fastball or it got away from him and it was arm side.

“It was a quick reminder to stay in line and do the simple things."

Abbott responded well and retired the rest of the side in order. Joey Wiemer whiffed on an 80 mph curveball before Blake Perkins looked at a 93 mph fastball for an inning-ending called strike three. 

By the fifth inning, Abbott had retired 10 in a row when Milwaukee finally notched its lone hit against him -- a one-out double to left field by Wiemer. 

"It probably took him until the second or third to really settle in and once he did that, he was really in command the rest of the game and used all his pitches," Reds manager David Bell said.

In the sixth inning following a leadoff walk, Abbott froze Contreras with an 80 mph curveball for a called third strike. Then he put away Yelich again with a 93 mph fastball on the outer half.

"The Yelich fastball was my favorite pitch. He had to throw it right there," Maile said.

Abbott had already exceeded his season-high pitch count, but he was able to get Brian Anderson to fly out to end the sixth on his 105th pitch. A standing ovation from the crowd followed. 

"Of course, I wanted his night to end well and we're trying to win the game, but he was able to get that out and do both," Bell said.

Maile saw plenty to like and let Abbott know he could be even better.

"There’s a lot of great takeaways, but there’s a next level to his game that he hasn’t found yet," Maile said. "Hopefully we get there."