Steve Tolleson has been around a little bit in the four years from when he was first summoned to play in Major League Baseball, playing a little infield and a little outfield.
Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, while the Toronto Blue Jays were playing out the string during an embarrassing outing against the Cleveland Indians, Tolleson was able to try his hand for the first time as a big league pitcher.
And given the way the other Toronto pitchers had performed – non-performed would be a more apt description -- at least Tolleson was able to depart with his head held high.
The final score was 15-4 in favor of Cleveland, a game in which the Blue Jays were outhit 22-8 in a pasting that will not soon be forgot. Kind of hard to when this tedious affair dragged on for three hours and 37 minutes.
“I wish the circumstances hadn’t of been that way to even get that chance,” Tolleson said afterward in a suitably somber Blue Jays clubhouse. “But I guess any time you have a chance to go out and try to get an out in a major league game that’s a pretty special opportunity for anyone. I didn’t take it for granted.”
Tolleson was essentially just playing soft toss with two out in the ninth inning after Toronto manager John Gibbons, who was desperately trying to do protect an already ravaged bullpen from further humiliation, thrust him into the game.
Heading into the seventh inning, it was a was still close a close game with the Indians leading 4-2. Then things quickly got out of hand.
Rookie Marcus Stroman took the mound for the Blue Jays and over the next 1.1-innings was slapped around for five runs and five hits. In came Neil Wagner, who was only just called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, and he coughed up six more off six hits.
Then it was Tolleson’s turn, who was preparing himself for the moment after being warned an inning or so earlier by Gibbons that he might be called upon.
Before he took the mound, Tolleson said he huddled with catcher Josh Thole just to get all the signs straight.
“Thole asked me, ‘What kind of pitches are you going to throw?’ and I said, man, hopefully just strikes,” Tolleson said. “I’m just going to throw two-seam fastballs or changeups, whatever you guys want to call it.
“I feature a knuckle ball but I didn’t want to pull one out tonight.”
Tolleson surrendered a double off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall, the first batter he faced, before he got Mike Aviles to pop out to finally end the madness.
Afterward, Tolleson said he had never pitched at the Major League level before but said he had thrown a pitch or two in Triple-A doing mop-up duty.
But this one was special, coming as it did at the big league level.
And after shortstop Jose Reyes caught the pop up by Aviles to end the inning, he shortsightedly threw the ball into the stands. Toronto pitcher Mark Buehrle made sure the ball was retrieved to present to Tolleson as a memento.
“It’s one of those unique opportunities that I’ll be thankful for old and grey one day,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it happened the way it did.”