Amid strange circumstances, Pirates find situation for Clay Holmes’ MLB debut
Like any young baseball player, Clay Holmes called his major league debut “a cool experience.”
But that doesn’t mean it came under circumstances anywhere near what he had dreamed of.
Holmes was called upon for the first time from the bullpen during a cold rain in a near-empty ballpark during a 12-run game.
That doesn’t mean he won’t cherish it.
“I guess nothing about this whole process has been how I thought it would come or kind of planned it out to be,” the lanky right-hander said after his debut Friday night. “But I guess in baseball, as in life, most of the things you plan don’t really go according to (plan). I’ve dealt with it and taken it as it’s come and adapted.”
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Holmes was wooed to the organization by a seven-figure bonus as a ninth-round pick in 2011, eschewing a scholarship to Auburn. There was a season missed because of Tommy John surgery, and his first appearance on a major-league 25 man roster came just because he was an available arm (for Game 2 of the April 1 doubleheader in April).
He was given a more long-term roster spot the following day when Joe Musgrove was placed on the disabled list. But the Pirates were pretty up-front that there was a possibility — maybe even a probability — Holmes wouldn’t be used. With an eight-man bullpen and another long reliever in Tyler Glasnow, it took a situation like the one Clint Hurdle encountered Friday.
“You always prefer to get him in. However, you are not going to force it,” Hurdle said. “There’s 24 other men (on the team) you have got to be mindful of as well. We have had guys we brought up and not get opportunities to pitch and then have to go back down and wait.
“Then there comes times when maybe the opportunity comes when you put a guy in a bigger situation in the game then you’d hope to, but that’s what is called for based on opportunity and bullpen usage or a couple different things, so usually it works out the way.”
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Because all but two of Holmes’ minor league appearances were as a starter, Hurdle refused to ask Holmes to enter the game in the middle of an inning. He also strongly wished to avoid asking Holmes to throw in any high-leverage situations.
Similar to how the former bonus baby isn’t the much-hyped prospect anymore, Holmes’ debut was under-the-radar. But that’s OK.
“Him and I have had a couple conversations,” Hurdle said. “Nothing has worked out as he thought it might have to this point in time, and he continues to rise above, he continues to persevere, he continues to be resilient and work had to improve. So regardless of how and when it happened, (an MLB debut) is special, it had to feel special, and it’s just another notch for us to break in a guy.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.