CINCINNATI -- Rookie Starlin Castro not only gave the Cubs a much-needed spark, he made history in his debut.
Called up from Double-A Tennessee earlier on Friday, Castro became the first player in Major League history to drive in six runs in his debut. The 20-year-old shortstop homered in his first big league at-bat, a three-run shot -- becoming the third-youngest player to do so -- and added a three-run triple to help power the Cubs to a 14-7 victory over the Reds.
"He's a talented young kid, and today was an exceptional, exceptional day," manager Lou Piniella said. "The kid -- what a debut. He's got to be ecstatic, and he should be."
The previous high for RBIs in a debut was five, recorded most recently by Oakland's Ben Grieve on Sept. 3, 1997, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Marlon Byrd hit a three-run homer and Mike Fontenot delivered a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth to back Carlos Silva (3-0), but this night belonged to Castro.
The youngster received a celebratory beer shower from his teammates after the game, but he will celebrate with soda or water, and he was eager to call his family in the Dominican Republic.
On Saturday, he may have to borrow a uniform. The lineup card, Castro's hat and his jersey were authenticated after the game and are expected to go to the Hall of Fame. But clubhouse manager Tom Hellman didn't bring that many extras on the road trip, so Castro might have to borrow someone's jersey.
Castro, who was batting .376 in 26 games in the Minors with one home run, came up with two on and none out in the second against Reds starter Homer Bailey (0-2). Castro connected on a 2-2 pitch, the ball landing in the right-field bleachers. It was quickly retrieved for a souvenir. First hit, first homer, first RBIs.
"I was surprised," Castro said. "I didn't think I was going to hit a homer in the first at-bat."
In Piniella's first Major League at-bat, in 1964, he pinch-hit for Robin Roberts, the Hall of Famer who passed away on Thursday, and grounded out to the second baseman. Alfonso Soriano recalled going 1-for-4 in his debut.
Didn't anyone tell Castro it isn't this easy?
"I think he'll find that out for himself," Piniella said.
Castro is the sixth Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat and the first since pitcher Jim Bullinger did so on June 8, 1992, at St. Louis. He is the third rookie this year to homer in the first at-bat, following Atlanta's Jason Heyward, who did so on April 5 off Chicago's Carlos Zambrano. Minnesota's Luke Hughes went deep on April 28 at Detroit.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the fifth, and Reds reliever Micah Owings walked Geovany Soto to force in a run. Castro worked the count full, then lined a triple to left-center for three more RBIs and a nine-run lead.
"When these young players come up here and do well, they give you a lift," Piniella said. "It was pretty impressive."
A radio reporter told Castro he was "king of Chicago," but coach Ivan DeJesus, who was acting as interpreter, quickly cut him off.
"It's his first day," DeJesus said. "He has a lot of work to do."
Castro, whose single-game RBI high in the Minors was three, finished 2-for-5. It was quite a night for the youngster, who began his day with a 7 a.m. wakeup call with the news that he was headed to the big leagues.
RECORD RUN PRODUCTION IN DEBUTS
|Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro set a Major League record with six RBIs in his first big league game. The previous mark, dating back to 1920, was five RBIs, shared by four players.|
|Ben Grieve||Oakland||Sept. 3, 1997|
|Pat Borders||Toronto||April 6, 1988|
|Joe Cunningham||St. Louis||June 30, 1954|
|Walter Mueller||Pittsburgh||May 7, 1922|
Fontenot, who lost his second-base job to Ryan Theriot, who is shifting from shortstop to second to make room for Castro, delivered the pinch-hit slam in the eighth. It's the first by a Cubs player since Derrek Lee came off the bench and connected on May 19, 2007, against the White Sox.
"We've been a real streaky team," Piniella said. "The secret to this whole thing is to find some consistency. If we can find some consistency, we're going to be fine. If not, it's just a rocky road. Consistency is the key -- it's the key to any baseball team, any pro franchise."
As for Silva, the starter was lifted after five innings. He gave up four runs on 10 hits, including a two-run homer by Owings in a long fifth. Silva said that he was fighting the whole game because of some minor discomfort in his right shoulder.
Silva hit behind Castro and had a front-row seat for the rookie's historic debut.
"Amazing, unbelievable," Silva said. "I was looking at everything he was doing. I think he's going to bring such good energy for the team. He's going to fit in really well here."
For now, Piniella plans on easing Castro into the big leagues and will continue batting him eighth.
"If he's driving in six runs a game, [he can hit] anywhere he wants," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.