Herrin treats family to feat unseen since 1893

April 3rd, 2023

SEATTLE -- Tim Herrin’s parents were waiting for him in the hotel lobby after Saturday’s game, planning how they would stay in Seattle for an extra day.

Three days of the season had already passed, and their son, wearing a big league uniform for the first time, had yet to get into a game. They had a flight booked to leave Washington on Sunday morning, meaning they would miss the series finale against the Mariners -- one final chance to see him make his Major League debut.

They couldn’t let that happen.

The Herrin family secured seats on a redeye flight late Sunday night, assuring that they would be in the ballpark in case Tim's moment came. What they didn’t know was that they’d be rewarded with an unprecedented showcase by the 26-year-old lefty, who came on in relief in Cleveland’s 6-5 extra-innings win over Seattle at T-Mobile Park on Sunday and accomplished something that hasn’t been done since the mound moved to its current distance in 1893.

“We showed up to win,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said, “but watching him do that today gave us a good feeling anyway.”

More often than not, a rookie hurler will find his way into his first game in a non-critical scenario. It’s a way to get all the firsts out of the way without too much added pressure on a rookie’s shoulders. But Herrin was thrown directly into the fire.

Guardians starter labored through 4 2/3 innings. He left a runner on base when Francona decided to turn the ball over to the bullpen in the fifth. The club knew it would be without James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase in the late innings after heavy workloads this weekend. It needed all hands on deck to shoulder the rest of the burden.

That meant Herrin was going to make his debut in a tight game. And he was ready for the challenge.

Herrin came in to replace Quantrill with two outs, a runner on first and right fielder Jarred Kelenic at the plate. After back-to-back balls and a wild pitch, he settled in and fanned Kelenic on three straight pitches.

“Big moment in the game,” Herrin said. “Running out there, a feeling I’ll never forget. Looking at the stadium, realizing I made it. I’m in the big leagues. That was really cool.”

Herrin earned the right to head back out to the rubber to start the sixth. And somehow, he got even better. Six pitches to AJ Pollock resulted in a strikeout. Four pitches to J.P. Crawford resulted in a strikeout. And five pitches to Julio Rodríguez resulted in … you guessed it … a strikeout.

Herrin became the first pitcher since 1893 to face at least four hitters and strike them all out in his Major League debut, according to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs and the Elias Sports Bureau. His display came at a crucial point in the game, as he worked to give his offense a chance to come back (which it eventually did, taking advantage of a throwing error in the 10th to score the winning run) against the heart of a lineup that’s expected to be quite dangerous this season.

“I’ve been able to see quite a few debuts, none as important as that one right there,” Guardians catcher Mike Zunino said. “His stuff is that good, and I hope this just continues to build confidence for him.”

Herrin threw 20 pitches in his 1 1/3 innings, 14 of them sliders. The offering induced six swings. One resulted in a foul ball; the rest were whiffs. He mixed in just five four-seamers, averaging 95.9 mph.

“I feel like coming out of the ‘pen, you need to rely on your strengths a little bit more than maybe a starter does,” Herrin said. “More likely than not, you’re only going to face them once, so I went in there, pitched to my strengths and it worked.”

Herrin had his family on the field prior to Saturday’s game to take photos with him in his first Major League uniform. At that point, his parents planned to be on a flight the next morning, and they were savoring the last moments with their son on the field.

They may have had to push their flight back, but they certainly got their money’s worth.

“I’m grateful that they were able to stay and see that,” Herrin said. “It’s definitely a special feeling.”