Even a loss to Tigers can’t dull the joy of Gabby Moreno’s memorable Blue Jays debut


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DETROIT — “Enjoy it, kid, this only happens once.”

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The words came from George Springer, a three-time all star and one-time World Series MVP.
They were directed at the youngster to his left in the visitors dugout at Comerica Park, some two hours before Gabby Moreno, the No. 4-ranked prospect in baseball, was scheduled to make his major-league debut.

Judging by the smile reaching the corners of Moreno’s face following the Blue Jays’ 3-1 loss to the Tigers, the entire scene was the biggest of big-league dreams come true.

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“Very emotional,” Moreno said afterwards. “I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life. wow. What can I say?
The game had a little bit of everything for Moreno — and besides the disappointing final score, most of it good.

He threw out a runner at second (sort of, as Victor Reyes was ultimately safe because of a Bo Bichette dropped ball for an error). He showed speed on the base paths. He looked comfortable managing veteran pitcher Kevin Gausman — including a savvy mound visit in the first inning.

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most of all, it was the ninth-inning single for his first big league hit — and eventually his first run scored — that defined the day.

“The hit, for sure,” Moreno said when asked what his biggest take-away will be from a moment he has dreamed about for much of his young life. “I really wanted that.”

So did his teammates as the dugout erupted, even though it was a bases-empty single with two out in the ninth.

The kid has already made a positive first impression in the Jays clubhouse and, with the emotions of his debut out of the way, surely can swing a little more freely when he returns to action on Sunday.

Gausman certainly was impressed with the young catcher, from his framing, to handling his splitter and, yes, that somewhat brazen mound visit.

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“He just kind of asked me: ‘Are you good?’” he said. “That’s a good feel for the game. He feels confident, comfortable he can come out and talk to me.

“I don’t know, if I was 22 and catching a guy with some (big league) time, if I would do that. Pretty cool he feels that comfortable with me.”

Moreno joined the team here on Thursday’s off-day but was officially activated hours before Saturday’s first pitch.
Before he took his first batting practice cuts, Moreno was greeted by fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, the 39-year-old Tigers slugger and a native to their mutual homeland, another moment of awe for the self-assured youngster to digest.

The arrival of Moreno certainly generated some buzz for Game 58 of the Jays season, even if it was the highlight of an otherwise underwhelming late afternoon contest.

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Still, given his reputation, his youth and the fact that he was developed organically by the Jays from the time he was signed as a teen, it made for a memorable scene in Motown that wasn’t lost on anyone associated with the club.

If there were nerves, it didn’t mean Moreno wasn’t ready as he showed rather emphatically in the first inning when he passed his first big-league test.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch decided to challenge the rookie by sending leadoff man Reyes in pursuit of a stolen base. But Moreno was up for the task, popping out of the crouch quickly, his throw from him beating the runner at second with time to spare.

As Springer told us prior to the game, the significant task for Moreno was simply to get through the day by soaking up the full big-league experience. Going 1-for-4 — which included a chopper to the mound, a strikeout looking and a near infield single — will help with all that.

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“It’s a huge day,” Springer said. “Obviously, the organization thinks very, very highly of hm and so do we. Obviously when you get a guy like that in your lineup and in the clubhouse it’s big.

“But let him do out today and enjoy the day and his first taste of this. To have a guy like that here is awesome and the guys are excited about it.”

Ross Stripling, who is scheduled to throw to Moreno on Sunday, has an appreciation for how the Jays handle their Grade A prospects.

“That’s what’s cool about the Dodgers (his former team) and cool about here,” Stripling said. “The prospects we call up, we expect them to help us win games and be a part of what we’re doing here. It’s cool how winning organizations treat the young guys and how we have expectations for them.”

AROUND THE BASES

Gausman clearly improved from his shortest outing of the season in his previous start (nine hits and five runs in 3.2 innings). The righty allowed six hits and two runs. striking out four and walking three over six innings …The Jays got a boost to their bullpen when Tim Mayza (forerarm) was activated off of the IL … Among those at Comerica for Moreno’s debut was scout Francisco Pasencia who discovered and signed the prospect. “I feel like him right now. Very excited,” Plasencia said. “I know his heart was beating fast. I told him to try to be the same as he is in the minor leagues.”

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