DETROIT — Making your first major league start is nerve-wracking enough, but imagine making your debut against the New York Yankees and veteran CC Sabathia.
That was the situation Detroit Tigers rookie Casey Crosby found himself in Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 41,831 at Comerica Park.
The experienced Yankees got the better of the 23-year-old lefty in what ended up as a 9-4 Tigers loss.
The Yankees did most of their damage against Crosby in the second inning, when he walked Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Jayson Nix to load the bases. He also walked Derek Jeter for the Yankees’ first run. Then former Tiger Curtis Granderson unloaded the bases — quickly.
“It just kind of got away from me,” Crosby said. “I was getting too excited. One walk led to two walks, and I never really could get my composure back.
“You gotta hand it to him. I wasn’t pitching that well and just left a fastball for him so he could just rip it.”
It was Granderson’s fourth career grand slam and second at Comerica Park, one for the Tigers and one against them.
The Yankees led 5-1 at that point, and although Crosby settled down somewhat and the Tigers clawed back for a while, it wasn’t enough.
“Walks and two big blows pretty much sums up the game, particularly for Casey,” manager Jim Leyland said. “The control problems there and then, of course, the big blow when he tried to get the ball over, left it in the middle, not as much on it.
“That second inning was a little tough to overcome.”
Casey’s final line was six runs, four hits, four walks and three strikeouts in just 3 1/3 innings. He threw 75 pitches, only 40 for strikes.
Sabathia got his first win as a Yankee at Comerica Park, something Crosby would have liked to prevent.
“Obviously, it’s the Yankees, so it’s an extra special night,” Crosby said. “My first reaction, I was just in shock. I didn’t know I was facing CC until the day after I knew I was facing the Yankees.
“Growing up, my initials are CC, and everybody when I was 13 called me CC Sabathia because I was a big lefty. It was just cool that I faced him in my first big-league start.”
Ideally, Crosby would still be with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, where he was 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA and was third in the International League with 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings.
But a recurrence of Doug Fister’s left-side strain has pressed Crosby into duty.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think on June 1st, we’d be pitching Crosby and catching (Omir) Santos,” Leyland said. “And I don’t mean that disrespectfully.
“Just because of the way things have turned out, and a couple injuries, we’ve had to do a lot of improvising.”
A lot of pitchers, including successful ones like Justin Verlander, haven’t done all that well in their first big-league outing.
“I just think that sometimes your first start, even when you’re moving from A-ball to Double-A, is different,” Leyland said. “When you’re moving from Double-A to Triple-A, a little bit different. Certainly, when you’re moving from Triple-A to the big leagues, a lot different.
“So you just file that one up and run him out there against Cleveland and see what he does. The equipment’s there. We asked a lot of the kid tonight, but we’ve been forced this year into a lot of different situations but we just have to battle it.”
Gerald Laird, who didn’t catch Crosby Friday night but had caught him in spring training, said Crosby has a lot to work with — even though he wasn’t able to get his off-speed pitches over for strikes against the Yankees.
“Seeing him in spring training and the velocity and the off-speed pitches he has, he definitely has a bright future,” Laird said. “It’s (his debut), Yankees at home. It can get exciting for a young guy.
“He just made a couple bad pitches, but for the most part, I thought he threw the ball really well. He looked good out there after he settled in.”
Crosby, whose parents drove over from their Chicago-area home to see their son’s debut, was disappointed but undaunted.
“Throw strikes and just keep the team in the game, get the win for them,” Crosby said. “Obviously, I didn’t do that today. The main is, we didn’t get the win today.
“You get the call thinking you can produce for the big club, help them get to the playoffs and the World Series.
“It just sucks when in your first start, you kind of put them in a hole right away. I know I’ll improve from this start and it’ll be a lot better.”