Yankees’ Weissert ‘OK’ after HBPs on 1st 2 pitches in debut

Sports

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Greg Weissert actually got a good night’s sleep, which is hard to believe given what he admittedly considered a nightmare big league debut.

His entire immediate family and some friends had flown cross-country to be there Thursday night, when Weissert hit batters with the first two pitches he threw, sandwiched around a balk in his first appearance on a major league mound after years of waiting.

“I’m OK,” Weissert told The Associated Press on Friday, smiling as he stood in the Yankees clubhouse a day after his debut. “I sat down and recognized last night, I looked back and saw that I was moving a little fast. I wasn’t stepping off and just taking a breath and just kind of taking it all in. I was letting it get on top of me a little bit. But I’m anxious to get back out there and kind of right my wrongs and leave a better impression on everybody the next time.”

Hours afterward, back in the hotel room, Weissert pondered his night: “Just kind of replaying it in my head saying like, ‘What happened out there?’”

“I was obviously a little nervous with the anticipation of everything building up and all the years in the minor leagues, seven years, and the long inning right before, the whole buildup of it,” Weissert said. “I didn’t take a moment to just step back and kind of realize where I was and take it all in.”

From the first pitch he threw, it was pretty painful to watch — and painful for Oakland hitters, too.

Weissert plunked Jonah Bride with his first offering. Then he balked. After that he nailed Skye Bolt with his second pitch, prompting the A’s hitter to slam down his bat. Bolt went on the 10-day injured list Friday with a partially dislocated patella tendon in his right knee.

It didn’t get much better for the Yankees new right-hander wearing No. 85.

After a pair of one-out walks, with Weissert’s last pitch going to the backstop, he was done. Pulled by manager Aaron Boone with the Yankees ahead 13-2 in the seventh inning, Weissert made the exceedingly long trudge from the mound to the dugout at the Coliseum.

Even the Oakland side felt for Weissert.

“It was the perfect spot for the young man to make his debut,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said Friday. “You never know how guys are going to respond. He’s been having a great Triple-A season and he gets his first opportunity to leave an impression and it just didn’t go well. But at the end of the day, when a guy comes into a game and hits two batters, it’s highly, highly unlikely it was done with any intent.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Weissert became the first player in the expansion era (since 1961) to hit batters with his first two pitchers in the majors.

At least he’s now a big leaguer forever — and the AL East-leading Yankees still coasted to a 13-4 win.

“Only up from here,” Boone said after the game. “That’s a rough one. I think it sped up on him. He acknowledged that.”

Disconsolate after his wild outing, the 27-year-old Weissert banged his glove on the bench and took a seat all by himself at the end of the dugout, looking down.

He wasn’t alone for long.

One by one, his teammates started to wander over to offer words and taps of encouragement. Pitcher Domingo German, coach Luis Rojas and his catcher, All-Star Jose Trevino. By the end of the inning, slugger Aaron Judge was sitting next Weissert, getting the rookie to relax.

All that support from his teammates meant the world. Weissert then met up with his parents Friday morning. His wife was also in the stands, along with a brother and sister and their families. A few friends, too.

The Yankees still believe in him.

“That was really good to hear after that situation that happened out there that everybody was still supportive and trying to give me good advice and encouraging words,” Weissert said.

Picked by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2016 draft out of Fordham in the Bronx, the Long Island product finally earned his big chance Thursday after All-Star starter Nestor Cortes went on the injured list.

With a fastball in the mid-90s mph and a slider with a lot of movement, Weissert had excelled at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season — notching a 1.76 ERA in 40 games, with 67 strikeouts in 46 innings.

Boone praised him before the game, saying, “he’s going to get some opportunities. He’ll be in the mix, we really like him.”

Of Weissert’s 15 pitches, only five were strikes. He was charged with three runs, leaving him with an 81.00 ERA for now.

Boone said Weissert will be out on the mound again.

“Look, it doesn’t change what we think about him,” Boone said. “Get that one out of the way.”

Weissert will be ready.

“Fresh start today,” he said. “I’m all right. I’m not too worried about it. I’m glad that first one’s out of the way. It can’t get much worse than that.”

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AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed.

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