Sam Hentges Strikes Out The Side In MLB Debut
Major league debuts are always exciting, but Sam Hentges’ debut was particularly exciting because he struck out the side.
The Indians called up the 24-year-old lefthander on April 17 and he made his debut three days later against the White Sox. It was the culmination of a long road traveled by Hentges, a 2014 fourth-rounder from Mounds View High in Arden Hills, Minn.
He spent six years in the Indians’ system, recording a 4.34 ERA with 9.6 strikeouts per nine in 406.2 innings. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016.
Hentges entered his debut in the seventh inning and struck out the first two batters he faced: Adam Eaton and Yoan Moncada. Jose Abreu then belted a solo home run, but Hentges ended the inning by striking out Leury Garcia.
“It was very cool,” said Hentges, who relied mostly on his mid-90s fastball and a well-shaped curveball. “Obviously I’ve waited a long time for this moment. It’s an adjustment, but it was nice just to get out there in a big league game and face big league hitters. A dream come true.”
Hentges worked as a starter in the minors, but with Cleveland’s strong rotation, he initially will pitch relief.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Hentges spent last season at the alternate training site and appeared in some exhibition games in Columbus this spring.
Indians manager Terry Francona was impressed by Hentges’ debut and excited about the lefthander’s future.
“He looked the part out there, which was good because his stuff is really good," Francona said. "You’re going to look up someday and see a kid that’s dealing at the major league level and then you’ll go back and look at his Double-A stats and say, ‘Wait a minute, this doesn’t fit.’ ”
Hentges started to feel comfortable in the big league environment when he faced the Dodgers in a spring training start in March.
“I was facing the World Series champions, and they had some of their big dogs out there," he said. "It showed me that I had the ability and stuff to get big league hitters out.”
— Righthander Triston McKenzie, the organization’s top prospect, began the season in the major league rotation with mixed results. Through his first four appearances he averaged 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings but also walked 7.6 per nine.
— In his first five appearances, righthander Trevor Stephan, acquired from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, had a 6.43 ERA, but with 10 strikeouts in seven innings.