Shoemaker finds success in debut for Angels

BY foxsports • September 20, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Matt Shoemaker lived his childhood dream Friday night. As he stood in front of his locker in the Angels clubhouse, his glee was written across his face.
 
This was a moment he had thought about since he was a kid, and it was finally here. He was in the major leagues.
 
"Ever since I could remember, four or five years old, I wanted to be a big leaguer," he said. "My chance is finally here. I'm excited as I could be, and I had a blast. More fun than anything."
 
Shoemaker's debut was one for the scrapbook. Called up from the minors to fill in for ailing ace Jered Weaver, he pitched five shutout innings and gave up two hits in the Angels' 3-2, 11-inning win over the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium.
 
Chris Iannetta delivered the game winner with a single that scored Kole Calhoun from first base, but the night belonged to Shoemaker, whose parents flew in from Michigan to watch him pitch. His wife, sister, a cousin, an uncle and a few friends were also in the stands.
 
"Any time a young player gets an opportunity to show what they have, it's important," manager Mike Scioscia said. "You couldn't ask much more from Matt, a young pitcher coming up and getting his first start and giving us five zeros."
 
Shoemaker, who turns 27 next week, was 11-13 with a 4.64 ERA at Triple-A Salt Lake this season. His last start, in the deciding Game 4 of the Pacific Coast League championship series last Saturday, ended in a loss, but the Angels offered him a reprieve.
 
When it was decided that Weaver would miss Friday's start because of tightness in his forearm, the Angels opted to give the assignment to Shoemaker rather than Joe Blanton or Tommy Hanson, neither of whom has pitched effectively this season.
 
Blanton, 2-14 as a starter, was demoted to the bullpen in late July and hasn't pitched since Sept. 3. Hanson was sent to the minors Aug. 12 and was called back on Monday. Given their struggles, the Angels preferred to see a new face on the mound.
 
"We only have so many starts left," Scioscia said before the game. "We have a responsibility to the integrity of the league because we're going to be facing two teams that are fighting for the playoffs after this (Oakland and Texas).
 
"There's not as many free looks that we're going to have, and tonight is one of those things where we'd like to give Matt a shot. I don't think it's fair to compare it to why Joe isn't pitching or why Tommy isn't pitching. That's really not part of the equation. It's just, let's see what Matt has."
 
Shoemaker used a fastball and split-fingered fastball with an occasional slider and breaking ball to shut down Seattle. He gave up walks in each of the first two innings but stranded runners both times. His night ended after five innings only because he had thrown 93 pitches.
 
"I still felt good," he said. "I told (Scioscia) I was ready to go back out there, but I understand how the game works. Also, I got into some deep counts, so I know I threw more pitches than I wanted to. I just wanted to give the team a chance to win."
 
He did that, fighting through his nerves and pitching with composure, even when he got in trouble.
 
"Before the game, Weaver said, 'Hey it's the same game. Just go out and pitch,' " Shoemaker said. "That kind of calmed me down a little bit more and allowed me to go out and focus on each pitch."
 
But his excitement was still visible at the end of the night. Regardless of where his career goes from here, he will always have Friday.
 
And in some ways, that's enough. He made it to the bigs.
 
"It was surreal to say the least," he said. "I was like a little kid. It's something you dream about your whole life, and you go out and finally do it. Nerves, adrenalin, all that mixed together, just led to a good day -- even better that we won."


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