On Baseball: Prospect Nolin gets taste of major leagues, vows to return
MANCHESTER -- It wasn't the major league debut Sean Nolin had dreamed of.
A highly touted prospect having a strong season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 23-year-old Toronto Blue Jays lefty pitcher was called up for an emergency start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 24. Making his big league debut, Nolin retired just three of the 11 batters he faced and left the game trailing 6-1 and owning a 40.50 ERA.
"I had a lot of energy flowing and it was an exciting time to be able to get up there and get my first MLB start. I was a little overwhelmed but I guess there's nothing I can really do to slow it down," Nolin said. "I'm usually an intense guy anyway. It got the best of me a little bit, but nothing I can't work on or prepare for next time."
Though not ideal, the experience itself is what Nolin will draw on the next time he gets the call.
"I know what's coming now. Hopefully I can prepare for it better," Nolin said. "It makes me feel comfortable. They know that I can be called up and they wanted me up there for a start and they believe in me. I definitely believe in myself. Every pitch, just keep on going and try to make that next pitch better."
Nolin's first start back in New Hampshire after his MLB debut was a rocky one as he gave up five runs in five innings of work and took the loss on June 2 against Binghamton.
But in the following start, Nolin was back to the form that got him off to a 2-0 start with a 1.17 ERA before the call-up, allowing just three hits and two runs over six innings in a win on Saturday at Erie.
Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore said it's all part of the process for a young pitcher.
"Part of what he's doing now is realizing what he's going to have to do to succeed (in Toronto) and the type of routine that he's going to have to have. He said his adrenaline was flowing so hard it was like a flash to him, the whole thing because of the atmosphere. (He's) a young kid reaching a lifelong goal," Signore said. "His first outing back wasn't great. After that he seemed to get back to the pitcher he was. Despite not having success there, he has something to draw on, which will help his development in the end."
Signore said that the mental recovery from his MLB debut is best left to Nolin himself. As for the physical part of the game, Nolin has that covered.
"He's got all the physical tools, so mentally you've kind of got to leave him alone. He doesn't want anybody in his ear after that kind of outing. He knows he didn't pitch well. You give him a few days to let it all sink in," Signore said. "I expect him to be good the rest of the way, whether it's here, (Triple-A) Buffalo or Toronto. He's got a great delivery, he's got four average major league pitches, he commands the ball well, he controls the running game, he fields his position relatively well and he does all the little detail stuff that you need to do. He's got the complete set of tools."
Nolin said he received positive feedback from the coaching staff in Toronto as well as a pick-me-up speech from Blue Jays veteran starter Mark Buehrle.
"They know it was nerves and they know my stuff is good so they told me to just prepare for it for next time," Nolin said. "I had a little talk with Buehrle. He came up to me afterwards and said 'everyone here, it's happened to them. Don't doubt your stuff and just keep working hard and get back up here when you can.'"
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WEDNESDAY night's Fisher Cats comeback win over Akron could be the start of something.
Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the ninth and down to its final out, New Hampshire (32-34) posted five runs for a 9-8 win, twice coming back from four runs down. Brad Glenn had the game-winning hit to score A.J. Jimenez. The late blitz also featured an RBI double by Kevin Pillar and a two-run single by Ryan Schimpf, who scored the game-tying run on a throwing error that followed Clint Robinson's infield single.
"Every night's a new night, but we haven't done much of that, especially against this club here. I think the most runs we've scored against Akron has been two," Fisher Cats manager Gary Allenson said. "When you do that a few times, especially early in the season, you feel like you're never out of the game. It's not too late now, we're just short of the halfway point now."
Pillar called the win a confidence-booster.
"A win like that is a moment you can look back on and say maybe that was the turning point in the season. It gives us a huge confidence boost," Pillar said. "Having our backs up against the wall and a team we haven't had any success against all year…having the mentality to just get the next guy up and not trying to do it yourself and relying on the guy behind you is big."
Said Allenson: "You get five runs in an inning, not just one guy is doing it. It's a combination of guys. Hitting is contagious," Allenson said. "You start getting that confidence where you're not out of a game. There were two outs and two on and two strikes on Pillar when we got the first hit. Jimenez had a two-strike hit, as did Robinson. To have three guys do it with two strikes is a big plus."
Allenson harkened back to a big name from his own time with the Boston Red Sox as an example of how players need to live at bat to at bat. "I played with Carl Yastrzemski. He made the last out in the 1978 playoff game. He popped up to third base off (Yankees closer Goose) Gossage," Allenson said. "The thought of failure never entered his mind, he was so confident. Even the greatest don't get the job done. That's not the point. The point is knowing you're going to do it when you step into the batter's box."
Staff writer Ian Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.