Tuesday, March 28, 2023

From Division II and an Adult RE League, Matt Swarmer Achieves His MLB Dream With the Chicago Cubs: ‘My Adrenaline Was Pumping’

From Division Ii And An Adult Re League, Matt Swarmer Achieves His Mlb Dream With The Chicago Cubs: 'My Adrenaline Was Pumping'

Two years ago, right-hander Matt Swarmer tried to be prepared during the uncertainty of a minor-league season that was canceled due to the pandemic.

Their 2020 sporting action came from an unlikely source – an adult recreational league consisting of players ages 18 to 40.

“I was facing people who had almost no hair,” Swarmer said Monday. “I was just trying to find somewhere to play or just find a live hitter.”

Swarmer used to take video of every outing and check in with his pitching coaches during that summer to see what his pitches looked like: “I just wanted to be prepared whenever the opportunity presented itself.”

It came on the heels of a challenging debut season at Triple-A Iowa in 2019, in which he scored a club-record 36 home runs in 27 games and changed his slider grip. There was never a guarantee that Swarmer, a 19th-round pick from the University of Pennsylvania’s Division II Kutztown in 2016, would make it to the majors.

He’s fought for the past six years at Wrigley Field to be on the mound on Monday, the big-league moment he’s dreamed of when he was 5 years old. His parents and uncles were among the 39,305 fans.

“I had always set my mind (that) I just wanted to be a big leaguer one day,” Swarmer said. “I mean, coming from a guy who went to Division II, anything is possible for anyone. Just work hard and good things will happen.”

The 28-year-old swarmer gave the Chicago Cubs exactly what they needed in a 7-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

He scored four runs in six innings in his Major League debut – earning only one. He scattered five hits, scored a run and hit a six, in which he faced the first batsman Colten Wong. Two of his 92 pitches were four-seam fastballs or sliders. He finished with 10 blows and attacked his slider.

Manager David Ross said, “Never felt like he went fast enough, which happens to a lot of people.” “Just continuing to control what he can control, and that’s definitely different from a guy who’s just making his first start in the big leagues.”

Swarmer is the first Cubs starter to allow an earned run or less and at least six innings in his MLB debut since the Dallas Beelers on June 28, 2014.

“My adrenaline was pumping right away,” he said, “but I just had to calm down and say: ‘Hey, it’s just another game. Just keep doing what I’ve been doing.'”

After spending the last three minor-league seasons together, Swarmer was assisted by catcher PJ Higgins to pitch a familiar goal. Higgins gave Swarmer a simple pregame message: I have you.

“I was like: ‘This is the start of your big league, you’re gonna panic, but just trust me. Don’t worry about anything else,'” Higgins said of their conversation. that it would have helped – I don’t know if he did or not, but just for me, if someone says, hey, I’ve got you and just go out and do what you normally do, anything more Don’t try to, then you’ll be fine.”

Higgins also experienced a special moment during the Game 1 loss. His go-forward solo home run in the third innings was his first big-league homer. After the game, Higgins received the ball, fresh off the mark on the green, thanks to a ricochet from the top of the small scoreboard above the left field basket.

“Honestly, the first pitch was a fastball that I fouled and my mind went crazy,” Higgins said. “I was like, ‘Just hit the ball on the barrel and put it in play.’ And then luckily, I hit the ball on the barrel and put that swing into play.

The opening right fielder was another familiar face for Swarmer’s debut. The Cubs also called up Nelson Velázquez from Triple A before the doubleheader. He didn’t wait long to take his first hit, hitting an infield single out in his first at-bat.

Velázquez is the Cubs’ No. 16 prospect according to MLB.com and was the Arizona Fall League MVP last year. He was promoted to Iowa in early May and has hit .253 in 41 games between Double A and Triple A with nine doubles, one triple, 12 home runs, 25 RBIs and a .914 OPS.

“Everything is like a dream come true,” said Velázquez. “It’s everything I’ve wanted in my life.”

An apparently happy Velázquez has reunited with longtime minor-league teammate Christopher Morrell.

“She’s my bestie,” said Velázquez, whose locker is two below Morel.

After the Cubs’ 12-innings defeat at the hands of the White Sox on Sunday, Morrell received a text from Velázquez saying he would see him soon. The bond between Velázquez and Morel dates back to 2018, when they first became teammates in the short-season Eugene. Their friendship has only grown stronger over the years since the Cubs grew together through the minor-league system.

“To me, he’s really like a brother,” said Morell through an interpreter. “Inside the baseball field, outside the baseball field, the only thing missing is the blood between us.”

Debuts and career firsts were part of a busy Monday for the Cubs, who made seven moves, including Velázquez and Swarmer. Most notably, right fielder Seiya Suzuki went into the injured list with a sprain on the left ring finger.

Right-hander Ethan Roberts (swelling of the right shoulder) was moved to the 60-day IL to create a 40-man spot for Swarmer, who posted a 2.08 ERA in nine games (five starts) at Iowa.

Right-hander Anderson Espinoza also earned his first major-league call-up, being brought up from Double-A Tennessee and serving as the 27th man for a doubleheader. Espinoza, 24, was acquired from the San Diego Padres in July for Jake Marisnick. He made his debut in the fourth inning of Game 2, replacing left-hander Drew Smiley, who was out with a right oblique sore.

“It’s been a morning congratulating a lot of people for getting up here,” Ross said. “So happy for the people who have worked hard and you get the reward of coming and living in today’s environment.”


Nation World News Desk
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