With Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac out of the rotation for violating the team’s COVID regulations, rookie McKenzie took the mound on Saturday. The young pitcher is 6’5” 165lbs and his tall stature has earned him the nickname of “Sticks.”
McKenzie didn’t have a problem quieting Detroit’s bats by retiring the side in the first inning. He hadn’t played a competitive game in over 700 days and that wasn’t evident by the poise he showed on the hill. The 23-year-old was fanning batters left and right to record an impressive overall 10 strikeouts.
The Tribe’s inconsistent offense came alive in the bottom of the sixth, scoring four runs to give McKenzie the win. He left the game with an impressive stat line of six innings pitched, recording ten strikeouts, and allowing two hits, one earned run and a walk. In a post-game interview, Triston spoke to Andre Knotts of the emotions he experienced during his start. After sitting down future hall-of-famer Miquel Cabrera in the first inning, McKenzie stated he felt like he “was walking on air.” He did fall back down to earth when he gave up a solo shot to Willi Castro in the top of the fourth inning. However, that didn’t shake the rookie pitcher, as he bounced back immediately striking out Cabrera for the second time. McKenzie referred to Cabrera as a “South Florida legend”, Triston knows this well as he’s from the Sunshine state.
Roberto Perez was an important component to McKenzie’s success. Perez was not only part of the offensive rally, with a single scoring Carlos Santana, but he also provided veteran knowledge behind the plate. Triston expressed in his post-game interview that it wasn’t just Perez who was instrumental but several other of his teammates gave him support. Indians’ top prospect and McKenzie’s fellow minor league teammate, Nolan Jones, was watching his debut from atop a parking garage outside of Progressive Field. Triston also spoke of the words of encouragement, in his post-game interview, that he received from starting pitchers Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale. He texted both pitchers prior to the game and Bieber told him to just “be himself.” Those words stuck with McKenzie as he mentally prepared himself for one of the biggest days of his life.
He is set to start again in the team’s next round rotation, which possibly would be Friday against St Louis. Indians’ president Chris Antonetti had this to say about Triston’s start “I’m not sure you could script a better Major league debut.”
With the status of Clevinger and Plesac still up in the air the entrance of McKenzie creates an interesting yet exciting dilemma. If the Indians can get their sticks going like they did to back up “Sticks” the rest of the season should be exciting for the Cleveland faithful.