Pozo after HR in debut: 'Never want to forget'

August 14th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Yohel Pozo wasted no time getting his first big league hit Friday night. He went up to the plate swinging in the second inning against Oakland, bouncing a single up the middle on the very first pitch.

That was just the start of his special night. In his third at-bat of the game, he made sure his MLB debut would be a memorable one.

Pozo took a slider high in the zone and launched it at 396 feet off the left-field foul pole for a three-run home run, excitedly rounding the bases as he gave the Rangers a two-run lead at the time.

Pozo’s shot was extremely important, as Texas held on for an 8-6 victory over the A’s at Globe Life Field.

“It was a lot of emotions in me,” Pozo said. “I was laughing, jumping, everything ... If I tell you the truth, I don’t know [what I remember]. My mind was blown out. I have my teammates there jumping with me. That was a moment I never want to forget.”

The 24-year-old Venezulan catcher, who originally signed with the Rangers in 2013, was called up prior to Friday night’s game following a blazing stretch at Triple-A Round Rock in which he slashed .407/.419/.735 with a 1.153 OPS over 27 games.

Manager Chris Woodward admits that Pozo, who is unranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects list, wasn’t even on the big league squad’s radar to start the season. 

He’s a vastly changed player from the 2019 Minor League season, when he hit just .246 at Class-A Advanced Down East. Pozo credits his development with the birth of his son, Paul, who has turned him into a stronger, more mature person both on and off the field. 

When Round Rock manager Kenny Holmberg told Pozo he would be heading to Arlington, they both started crying. Pozo didn’t stop for more than two hours. 

Woodward said Pozo got the call because of his aggressive nature at the plate, something that the skipper has been emphasizing to his team in recent weeks. In fact, he didn’t take a pitch all night, swinging at seven straight. It paid off for both parties Friday night, with Pozo going 2-for-4 in his debut.

Pozo did exactly what the Rangers expected him to do, but Woodward was especially impressed with his fearless approach when facing A’s reliever Sergio Romo in the bottom of the sixth. Romo has a 0.60 ERA over his last 15 appearances.

Instead of sitting back and being hesitant, Pozo pulled the trigger on the first pitch for the home run.

“I didn’t sleep last night or this morning, I was just waiting for this moment,” Pozo said. “This is a dream come true for me and my family. I’m just full out trying to compete and be the best of me. I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing in the Minors.”

Pozo is the 10th player in Rangers history and 12th player in franchise history to homer in his MLB debut. He is also just the third player in Texas history to hit a home run when making his Major League debut in Arlington, joining Joey Gallo in 2015 and Ruben Mateo in 1999.

Pozo wasn’t the only player to hit his first homer as a Ranger on Friday. DJ Peters, who Texas claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on Aug. 2, launched a 446-foot, two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh inning, expanding the Rangers’ lead to 8-5 at the time.

It was one of the Rangers’ better offensive days all around, with five hitters notching multi-hit games. Nathaniel Lowe reached base four out of five plate appearances, with two singles and two walks.

“[Hitting coach Luis Ortiz] did a good job today in our hitters’ meeting talking about things we can control,” Woodward said. “He’s been talking about this for a while now, but he laid it out in a pretty good manner. If you’re on time, you can put yourself in a good position to hit and you can make quality decisions. We put a lot of really good at-bats together. We were on time and getting good takes. We’ve got to carry that over to tomorrow and attack each pitcher like that.”