It was only a Spring Training game in Phoenix, Arizona with most of the players already thinking about the start of the regular season early next week. However one Minor League pitcher made sure the big league coaches would remember him, when they go back north. The Italian right-hander Alex Maestri debuted for the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics, striking out three in a scoreless inning of relief, only allowing a single. It was his first appearance for the Major League club, filling in for the Cactus League game. The Cubs will travel north and are going to christen the new Yankee Stadium on Friday and Saturday against the New York Yankees in a two-game exhibition series.
Maestri describes his experiences on his Italian blog. He didn’t expected to play, when he arrived at the ballpark. Just a usual day on the bench. But the pitching coach informed him right before the start of the game that he will come in after Carlos Zambrano and Luis Vizcaino. Entering in the fifth, Maestri strikes out Orlando Cabrera looking with a fastball at the outside corner. After Jason Giambi manages a single through the hole, Matt Holliday is coming up and he also goes down looking, this time after a slider. Eric Chavez works the count to 3-2, before swinging after a slider in the dirt. Third strikeout. Third out. And manager Lou Piniella congrats Maestri later in the dugout.
Maestri, who was born on June 1, 1985 in Cesena, Italy, is expected to stay back and to begin the season with the Double-A affiliate in Tennessee. After the Cubs considered last year converting him to a starting pitcher, he is back in the bullpen and could reach the Majors later this year, especially if he has many more such outings like yesterday. During the 2009 World Baseball Classic with Italy, Maestri gave up three walks in 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out two. Maestri has an ERA of 3.30 and a WHIP of 1.10 in his three-year career in the American Minor League system so far.
Photo: © Ratti/FIBS