Feltner became the first starting pitcher since 2019 to have his first pitch launched for a home run. That’s how Ozzie Albies started the National League East-leading Braves’ 9-2 victory at Coors Field.
Feltner, who had been called up from Double-A Hartford and was pitching three days after his 25th birthday, became the first to be greeted so rudely since the Marlins’ Robert Dugger, by the Mets’ Jeff McNeill on Aug. 5, 2019.
Fernández’s entry will look more positive. He topped out at 102.4 mph -- on a sixth-inning third strike to Dansby Swanson, tying Aroldis Chapman for the eighth-fastest tracked pitch of '21, per Statcast.
Fernández’s four fastest pitches of the day clocked in at 102.4, 101.4, 101.4 and 101.3 mph. Each of those three fastest deliveries are also the Rockies' three fastest of the pitch-tracking era (since 2008), with the 101.3 mph pitch tying Daniel Bard and Ubaldo Jimenez for the club's fourth fastest in that span.
“This was the first game of two young men's careers who will hopefully spend a long time,” said manager Bud Black, whose team was held to a single and a triple from Raimel Tapia -- with Braves starter Charlie Morton pitching seven dominant innings. “But the trick is to learn from it, process it and move forward each and every day.”
Feltner’s education was immediate. Albies’ homer was a classic Coors Field floater -- one that landed just over the out-of-town scoreboard in right. Feltner stayed aggressive, but he saw his outing end in the third with consecutive homers by Adam Duvall and Travis d’Arnaud.
Feltner’s best pitch, which forced a double-play grounder from Duvall, ended his first frame.
“My main focus today was to pound the zone, be aggressive in the zone,” Feltner said. “I did that for the most part. Obviously, the first pitch of the game, I'm just trying to get a strike over and, and he connected with it -- hats off to him.
“There were some positives for sure. I made some pitches.”
Black said he saw enough from Feltner’s pitch mix and his poise that he wants to see more. Black didn’t fill him with advice.
“Experience is the best teacher, being out there,” Black said. “This was a situation where he was baptized under fire, right away against a good team. He’ll learn from it.
“I don’t know the young man a lot. He wasn’t in big-league camp the last couple of years. But he had a good season this year, split between A ball and Double-A. There's still a month left in baseball. We'll see where it takes him.”
Fernández blew through Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque, but by no means was his ascension quick.
Signed by the Rockies in the summer of 2012, Fernández was selected by the Giants in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. But he missed the 2018 season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The Marlins claimed him but returned him to the Rockies without him having pitched a game at any level. Then the pandemic wiped out Minor League baseball last season.
It was a long route to Sunday for Fernández, who was charged with three runs in 1 2/3 innings, but lit up the radar.
Fernández’s debut fulfilled a promise he made to his grandfather, Román Fernández, a former rodeo calf-roping champion in the Dominican Republic who passed away last August at 87. Julian -- also the son of former Astros catcher Tony Eusebio -- thought the stagnation of the last three years would cost him his career, but his grandfather kept encouraging him.
“At the moment I was not thinking anything else but my grandpa, the promise I made to him that I was going to pitch in the big leagues,” said Fernández in Spanish, with fellow reliever Carlos Estévez interpreting.
Fernández leaned mainly on a fastball in his first inning, which was spotless and included a strikeout of Swanson. Two hits, including the homer, occurred in the seventh, but he mixed in more of his changeup and slider.
“What I liked about our guy today was [that] he was around the strike zone -- he threw strikes with that velocity,” Black said. “And he threw strikes with his secondary pitches -- a changeup and a slider -- that are close to 90 miles an hour.”