TORONTO — The jog from the bullpen at Rogers Centre was “nerve-wracking,” John Curtiss said Friday, and warming up on the mound was, too. As he threw his first couple of pitches in the major leagues, his focus might have been a little shaky, too.
“I was thinking about me being a big-leaguer for the first two pitches,” Curtiss said about his major-league debut in the ninth inning of the Twins’ 6-1 win. Then he threw a slider, and Blue Jays outfielder Steve Pearce hit it about 350 feet — but just to the left of the left-field foul pole. “When Pearce hooked that ball, I went back to feeling like a baseball player.”
Curtiss did more than that, he proved to himself, to his parents sitting in the stands, and to the Twins that he can get MLB hitters out. Throwing mostly four-seam fastballs, a couple of which reached 97 mph, Curtiss struck out Pearce on a slider in the dirt, then got Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak to hit harmless fly balls to Eddie Rosario in left field.
He walked off the field satisfied, though nit-picking his first experience in the majors. “I don’t like falling behind anybody, and when I fell behind 2-and-0 against the former AL MVP [Donaldson], I was pretty mad at myself,” Curtiss said. “But I found a way to get him out somehow,” using a fastball low in the zone to do it.
Curtiss walked away with a few souvenirs to share with his parents — the ball from his first pitch, from his first strikeout, and the lineup card from his first game. Also: the respect of his manager, who liked what he saw.
“I’m sure he was a little bit nervous, but he did a nice job,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He made one mistake, with the slider 0-and-2 that he got away with to Pearce. But he came back with a really good one to strike him out.”
Curtiss made some history, too: He’s the 12th Twin to make his major-league debut this season, and the 50th player to appear in a game, both franchise records.
As he left the bullpen, coach Eddie Guardado “just told me to have fun, enjoy myself,” Curtiss said. “So I tried to do that.”
Bartolo Colon said he was touched by the opportunity to pitch in the majors with his mother’s name on his back, something he’s never done before. As part of Players Weekend, each player was allowed to change the name on the back of his jersey, and Colon chose “Morales” in honor of Adriana Morales, who died in 2014.
“It means a lot,” Colon said. “I thank God for giving me my mom and dad.”
But when Colon told his father, Miguel Colon, who still lives in the Dominican Republic, that he was going to change the name on his jersey, “he got a little mad,” Colon said with a smile. “But I told him, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just one game.’ “