Daley's debut a success for Rockies
Nerves in check, reliever tosses scoreless inning Saturday
DENVER -- Matt Daley's big league debut for the Rockies was a brief inning Saturday night that may have looked uneventful in a box score, but he packed it full of drama.
Daley entered the game in the seventh inning after Glendon Rusch pitched two scoreless innings of relief. The call came to the bullpen about a half-inning ahead of time, alerting Daley that unless the Rockies tied or went ahead, he'd be the next man out of the bullpen. The Rockies had made it a one-run game, and it was Daley's job to maintain that margin.
"I wasn't too bad until I started my run out, and that's when it really hit me," the 26-year-old right-hander said regarding a slight case of nerves as he took the field for the first time. "I definitely tried not to look [at the upper decks], that's for sure. I tried to just keep my mind focused and take a few deep breaths."
Daley was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Bucknell in 2004, and he has spent his entire career in the Rockies organization, making all but 10 of his 226 Minor League appearances as a reliever. As he threw his warmup pitches from a big league mound for the first time, he focused on the basics -- like breathing.
"Slow down. Slow down," he told himself. "My first three warmup pitches I could feel myself going rapid-fire. I just told myself to take a deep breath and slow everything down. That's what I tried to do."
By the third pitch of his career, Daley was trying to get the ball to slow down as a 1-1 fastball sailed off the bat of Russell Martin on a path toward the right-field bullpen.
"Off the bat, I was like, 'All right, it's not too bad,' but then it kept going and I was like, 'Oh no, this can't happen,'" Daley said. "Then Dex [rookie center fielder Dexter Fowler] made a great play on it and definitely settled me down a little bit."
Fowler caught the ball against the wall, running it down at full speed, keeping the Dodgers in check and helping Daley get his heart rate back on track after skipping a beat or two, as the first batter he faced flirted with a round-tripper.
After Yorvit Torrealba threw out James Loney, who attempted to advance to second on a ball in the dirt, Daley walked Matt Kemp on six pitches, hit Casey Blake on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, then struck out Dodgers reliever Ramon Troncoso on a curveball.
"I definitely didn't write it up that way, but as long as no runs score, I'll take it every time," Daley said. "It was a dream come true, no doubt about it. It was exactly what I'd pictured."
His manager Clint Hurdle liked what he saw from the rookie from Garden City, N.Y., praising his performance and his unique delivery.
"He's old-timey," Hurdle said. "He's a throwback for me. He's got a lot of perseverance, a lot of discipline, good focus. He's not afraid to pitch in with a 90 mph fastball, not afraid to spin the ball behind in counts. And you got to love the old-time windup. I'm waiting for him to double-pump over his head. When he comes up with that one, then we're going to do something special."
Daley contributed to a sterling bullpen effort, as four Rockies relievers combined for five scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and keeping the Rockies within a run of tying the score. Daley has gravitated toward the back of the bullpen through his Minor League career, earning 15 saves in Class A Modesto in 2006 and enjoying the intensity of the late innings.
"That's when I like to pitch," Daley said. "That's what I've been doing the last two or three years, so I'm used to it. Obviously, not at this level, but that's when I like to pitch, when the game's on the line. It's a lot more fun that way."
It's exactly the kind of old-time fun the Rockies hope to add to their bullpen and their ballpark as they bolster their staff in hopes of returning winning baseball to Coors Field.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.