NJ native overcomes jitters in Bronx debut

Marinaccio works around leadoff walk in scoreless inning vs. Red Sox

April 10th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Ron Marinaccio had pictured himself in pinstripes hundreds of times: the Toms River, N.J., native making the long jog across the Yankee Stadium outfield when the bullpen gates swung open, then doing his best Mariano Rivera impression on a mound he waited his whole life to ascend.

Reality was even better than the fantasy for the 26-year-old right-hander, who made his Major League debut with a scoreless fourth inning in Saturday’s 4-2 Yankees victory over the Red Sox. Marinaccio threw his first five pitches out of the strike zone, then had his nerves calmed by a chat with first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

“There was a ton of adrenaline,” Marinaccio said. “That’s as special of a moment as I could have come into -- Yankees-Red Sox. I’m kind of glad I got to kill two birds with one stone. I got the debut out of the way and got an exciting situation to pitch in as well.”

Pitching in relief of starter Luis Severino, Marinaccio walked Trevor Story and tossed the first pitch up and in to Bobby Dalbec. That brought Rizzo to the mound, with the veteran later saying that he advised Marinaccio to “take a deep breath, reset, all the clichés. You’re here for a reason, so test your stuff.”

It worked. Catcher Kyle Higashioka instructed Marinaccio to throw a slider, which he did, bending it past Dalbec and drawing applause for the first strike of his Major League career. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Marinaccio got Dalbec to wave at an 83.6 mph changeup for strike three; Higashioka rolled the ball to the Yankees’ dugout as a souvenir destined to reside on Marinaccio’s trophy case.

“I definitely needed it,” Marinaccio said. “After ball five, Rizzo came out there and said, ‘Just give me a deep breath.’ And that’s exactly what I needed at that point. Higgy told me, ‘We’re going to go slider next pitch.’ I had confidence in him and landed that next one.”

Marinaccio then induced Jackie Bradley Jr. to hit into a forceout, coming on a dazzling play up the middle by second baseman Gleyber Torres, who backhanded the ball and fired to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Marinaccio froze Christian Vázquez looking at a slider for his second strikeout, sealing his 19-pitch outing.

“I love his makeup, so I knew he’d get through it,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought it was the perfect time for Rizz and Higgy to go out there and [tell Marinaccio] to trust your stuff: ‘You’re here and you’re on this team because you’re more than capable.’”

One of six Yanks to toss scoreless, hitless relief on Saturday, Marinaccio said that his parents, brother and fiancée were among a group of more than 100 friends and family members on hand to witness his debut.

“I think I heard my dad at some point. He’s got a pretty distinct voice,” Marinaccio said.

A 19th-round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft from the University of Delaware, Marinaccio saw his prospect stock rise significantly last season, when he posted a 2.04 ERA across 40 relief appearances for Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’s ranked as the Yankees' No. 28 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

With 105 strikeouts against 27 walks in 66 1/3 innings, Marinaccio’s 39.9% strikeout percentage ranked third among pitchers at those levels (minimum 60 innings).

Along with left-hander J.P. Sears and right-hander Clarke Schmidt, Marinaccio was among the last notified he won a job in the Yanks’ bullpen when the club opted to carry 16 pitchers to begin the season. With more outings like Saturday’s, he can certainly make a case to stick around.

“Growing up, you envision this in the backyard your whole life,” Marinaccio said. “For me, I really started thinking about it probably toward the end of last year, and then getting added to the [40-man] roster. So I had a long time to think about it, and a lot of anticipation. It lived up to it, definitely.”