Patel, Singh make debuts in GCL
Indian-born pitchers each notch strikeout in first pro innings
Less than a year after signing deals, Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh have made even more history.
The duo became the first from India to appear in an American professional baseball game on Saturday, pitching in back-to-back innings during the Gulf Coast League Pirates' 4-2 loss to the GCL Yankees in Bradenton, Fla.
Singh pitched the seventh inning, allowing one run on two hits. He retired the last three batters he faced and threw 20 pitches, striking out one.
Patel, who is 5-foot-11, threw a scoreless eighth on nine pitches. He didn't give up a hit, struck out one and allowed only one batter to reach base -- on an error.
The tandem appeared in the reality show "The Million Dollar Arm," in their country last year, with Singh winning the challenge out of more than 37,000 participants. Singh, listed at 6-foot-2, won $100,000, and both were given the chance to train with former big league pitching coach Tom House.
Patel and Singh were signed by the Pirates in November, becoming the first Indian-born players to sign Major League contracts. Patel is a right-hander, and Singh is a lefty.
"This is going to be a long process, but they continue to make progress," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "For young men that have played baseball for less than a year, they have made admirable progress."
Huntington said the two will pitch out of the bullpen in the GCL and will probably remain at that level next season. The GM added that Patel and Singh each pitched 17-18 innings during extended spring training.
Huntington said he understands the challenge Patel and Singh face in playing a game that was unfamiliar to them about a year ago.
"The learning curve has been steep, but they are holding their own," Huntington said.
Kyle Stark, the Pirates' director of player development, said that both are still progressing. Patel and Singh are developing rapidly in their baseball intelligence and "slowly but steadily" in their fundamental performance.
Both Huntington and Stark said this will be a long-term project, with the latter saying that short-term expectations are minimal. To that extent, the expectations are to compete, continue to learn and progress.
"Learning the game continues, and the greatest challenge then becomes executing during game action," Stark said. "On the mound, both guys are progressing."
Wayne Staats is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.