The Brewers didn't ease right-hander Mike McClendon into a Major League role, as many clubs do with players making their big league debuts. Instead, when McClendon took the hill on Saturday in the sixth inning of a tie game against the Rockies, he was facing an All-Star, one of the key cogs of Colorado's World Series run in 2007, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
No matter, McClendon, 25, struck Tulowitzki out looking with a full-count curveball, then proceeded to retire eight more batters in a row as the Brewers scored in the 10th inning of a 5-4 win. For McClendon, a native of Arlington, Texas, the three innings he threw in relief of Chris Narveson were all in a day's work.
"I have been doing long relief," said McClendon, who has been serving in a similar capacity in Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville. "That's what I think my strength is. In my first outing, they used me in the role I'm used to: the long guy. I felt pretty comfortable in that role and took advantage of it. Definitely the nerves got to me, but four or five pitches into it, things started to feel a little bit more familiar."
In retiring each of the nine batters he faced, McClendon induced four ground balls and three fly balls. Including his strikeout of Tulowtzki, he fanned two batters. He pitched well enough that manager Ken Macha allowed him to pitch until his spot in the batting order came up.
"He was mowing them down, so we let him stay out there," Macha said.
McClendon was called up by the Brewers on Thursday, when they placed right-hander LaTroy Hawkins back on the disabled list with shoulder weakness. Hawkins spent three months on the DL earlier this season with the same malady. In 32 appearances this season spread between Double-A and Triple-A, McClendon posted a 2.06 ERA with two saves and 59 strikeouts in 70 innings.
Still, it's a bit of a jump from the Pacific Coast League to the Major Leagues, something that was evident with the first and last batters McClendon faced. The ninth man he retired was Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who is tied for the league lead with a .322 average and has 13 home runs in his past 37 games. McClendon retired him on a ground ball to short.
McClendon told reporters his secret when he was called up.
"Don't be scared of anyone," he said.
For one night, at least, it was a pretty good approach.
Sunil Joshi is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.