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SAS CITY -- After waiting more than nine seasons and 900 games in the Minor Leagues, Irving Falu finally received the call to play Major League Baseball.
After being activated from Triple-A Omaha on Thursday, Falu played in his first Major League game on Sunday against the Yankees, a 10-4 Royals loss. The 28-year-old native of Puerto Rico started at shortstop and batted eighth.
Before the game, Falu said he would try to get a hit in his first Major League at-bat. He might have a future in prognostication; in the second inning, Falu tripled off Yankees starter Phil Hughes in his first big league plate appearance.
"The first pitch, I got nervous, but the second pitch, I knew I needed to swing at this pitch," Falu said. "I did it. I made good contact, and that's it."
Falu collected two hits in four at-bats on the afternoon, played solid defense at shortstop and showed his speed by moving from first to second on a wild pitch in the fifth inning. Falu came around to score on an Alex Gordon single later in the inning.
"It was great to see him get up there in his first Major League at-bat and hit a triple," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "That was a real positive note, to see all the work and effort that Irving's put in over the last nine, 10 years, get here and have a good day on his debut."
By tripling in his first big league plate appearance, Falu joined a couple of other players in Royals history who did the same: Brian McRae in 1990 and Edgar Caceres in '95.
Falu is filling the roster spot of infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, who was placed on the disabled list on Thursday. After Saturday night's 5-1 Royals win, Yost told Falu he should be ready to play on Sunday.
"I told him to be ready," Yost said. "I never tell them they're going to play. I always tell them they've got 97 or 96 percent chance of playing tomorrow. But I always reserve that 4 percent in case I change my mind."
Come Sunday morning, Yost's mind hadn't changed, and there was a 100 percent chance of Falu being in the lineup.
Falu's fellow infielder Chris Getz was impressed with the dazzling debut.
"It's always cool to see, especially him in particular, because he's really battled," Getz said. "He's certainly put in his time in the Minor Leagues to finally get an opportunity. To capitalize on his first start, first at-bat ... I'm sure he has family here and all that, so it was good to see something like that."
Falu did have a slight hiccup in the field in the sixth inning. With Derek Jeter on second base, a pitch dribbled away from Royals catcher Humberto Quintero. Quintero threw to second base to try to nab Jeter, but Falu wasn't expecting the throw and the ball bounced away, allowing Jeter to reach third base.
"Generally, all our position players are aware that [Quintero] will throw down at any time," Yost said. "Well, Falu's a new guy; this is his first Major League game. He hasn't been in the situation to understand that you keep your head up at all times, no matter what the situation is, and he dropped his head. That won't happen again."
Falu did make several plays at shortstop, though, including one the next inning. He made a nice running throw on a ground ball to get Russell Martin at first and end the inning.
"It looked like he's been playing there for a while," Getz said. "I've seen him in big league camp the last few years, and I actually always wondered why he hasn't at least come to the big leagues before, because he's got all the tools, plays all the positions, plays them well. He can run, put together good at-bats, so I certainly think that he's got a future. ... I think he can be a really good player."
Falu isn't the only one getting a first taste of Major League Baseball. His family was in the stands for the series, and they were on hand Sunday to witness Falu's first game. Falu said it was the first time his mother, Silvia, had come to the United States to see him play. His older brother, Harvey, was also in the crowd, as well as his niece, Yamilka, and nephew, Airam.
Falu had a present for his mother after the game. The ball that he scorched into the right-field corner for a triple was handed to Falu by Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez. After the game, Falu held the ball in the Royals clubhouse and said he would give it to his mother. He didn't know exactly what she would do with it, but he guessed she would take it home and place it in the makeshift Hall of Fame she's created for him.
After spending more than nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, Falu finally has a big league ballgame under his belt, and if one game is any indication, things are going to go well.
"I told you," Falu said. "I told you I'm ready for this."