KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was May 12, 2006, when a 6-foot-4 left-hander from California named Cole came to a Midwest city to make his big-league debut for the Phillies.
Thirteen years to the day, it happened again.
Cole Hamels has gone on to have a stellar career, including leading the Phillies to a World Series title in 2008. There’s no telling what Cole Irvin will do from here, but the former Oregon pitcher certainly made a strong first impression Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
For seven innings of a 6-1 Mother’s Day victory — and with about 20 friends and family members, including his mom, Sandy, in attendance — Irvin was both efficient and effective in shutting down the Royals, who entered with the second-worst record in the American League but nevertheless were two nights removed from slugging three home runs against Jake Arrieta in the series opener.
Irvin wasn’t overpowering, but then, he never is. A finesse lefty with a fastball that tops out at about 91 mph, he’s unafraid of putting the ball in play. His calling card in Triple A was filling up the strike zone, something he did well against the Royals. He threw a first-pitch strike to the first six batters and 22 of 27 batters overall.
In that way, Irvin fits right in with a Phillies rotation that features contact pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Zach Eflin, Arrieta and even ace Aaron Nola. At a time when strikeouts are en vogue, they’re content to get weak contact and go deep into games, making life a lot bit easier on the bullpen.
Upon joining the Phillies on Saturday, Irvin joked that he had a modest goal for his big-league debut. He wanted simply to avoid what happened in spring training this year, when he threw eight consecutive balls to begin a start. After finally throwing a strike and receiving a derisive cheer from the crowd at Spectrum Field, he pumped his arm in the air in triumph.
“Hopefully we don’t have any more arm-pumping,” Irvin said, laughing.
Instead, Irvin breezed through the first inning on only nine pitches. He gave up a leadoff single in the second, then struck out the next three batters. And after allowing a run on a leadoff walk and a two-out single by Alex Gordon in the third inning, Irvin retired 12 of the next 14 batters.