By Luke Stanczyk
Two years ago, Scott Carroll underwent Tommy John surgery, made a comedic YouTube video, and was coming off a season for Cincinnati’s AAA affiliate where he finished with a 5.39 ERA. Set to turn 27, the big leagues were starting to seem like a pipe dream.
Fast forward to April 27, 2014. Carroll’s on the mound for his first major league start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Just like it was two years ago, the deck was stacked against him, facing 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price.
However, like he’s done on the diamond for the past few seasons, he beat the odds.
Carroll matched Price pitch-for-pitch through five innings on this Sunday afternoon, allowing just an unearned run on a botched fly ball by Dayan Viciedo (he made up for it later, throwing a man out at second and smacking a double).
In the sixth, however, someone imploded, and it wasn’t the 29-year-old minor league lifer who was about to go through Tampa’s order for the third time, something that often does pitchers in.
The Sox figured out Price in that sixth inning, and thanks to some porous defense from the Rays and Jose Abreu’s tenth home run of the season, gave Carroll a four-run cushion. It turns out that Carroll didn’t even need four extra runs, as he coasted through the next few innings before being pulled in the top of the eighth.
His final line: 7.1 innings, six hits, two runs, one earned, two walks, three strikeouts, 16 ground ball outs, three double plays induced (two against elite third baseman Evan Longoria), and one heck of a Major League debut.
Considering he’s never been invited to a big league camp in Spring Training and the fact that there are 17 players on this roster younger than Carroll, the context of some of those numbers are astonishing.
The 16 ground ball outs are the most by a White Sox starter since Gavin Floyd rolled 17 in a July 2012 game against the Twins.
His 7.1 innings amount to the longest outing by a Sox starter making his MLB debut since Gerry Janeski went 7.1 in 1970. Also, he’s the first Sox pitcher to win his MLB debut since Lucas Harrell back in 2010.
For all of those numbers, that’s a pretty long time, and Carroll was just as impressive today as we’ve seen any Sox starter all season long (aside from Chris Sale, of course).
Can he be a solid member of this rotation for the 2014 season? It’s obviously too soon to say, but as long as his 89-91 mph fastball is kept low in the zone and is moving the way it was today, he’ll have a good shot to stick for a bit.
His secondary stuff was not all that awful either, as he was able to freeze a few hitters on breaking pitches and showed great command of those as well. His stuff is that of a number five starter, but once Sale returns and joins Quintana and Danks, that’s all Robin Ventura would be asking Carroll to be.
With his friends and family in the crowd, Carroll was understandably a bit choked up when speaking with CSN’s Jen Lada after the game.
While the celebratory shower from the water cooler found Lada’s microphone and ruined the audio of the interview, that’s about all that went wrong for Carroll on this day.
It’s been a long journey for Carroll, and in a year where we’ve already seen some great stories on the South Side, this one may put a smile on our face more than anything this season.