Ryan Borucki couldn’t help but smile at the thought of potentially pitching a major league game in the home stadium of the Chicago White Sox.
That’s something the Blue Jays left-hander has been thinking about since childhood.
Borucki, who grew up in Mundelein, Ill., less than 70 kilometres from the South Side Chicago stadium, could start Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field to cap a three-game road series against the team he cheered for as a kid.
“Oh, it would be great,” Borucki beamed. “I don’t know if I’ll get too nervous about it, I don’t usually get too nervous about anything. But it’s definitely going to be a lot (to take in).
“A lot of people who have been with me my whole life will come out to watch me, but it’s going to be more excitement than nerves.”
Borucki chose to root for the White Sox over the Cubs as a kid, thanks in part to his father’s affinity for the South Siders. But he also got to watch a group of talented players, including his idol Mark Buehrle, bring a World Series to Chicago in 2005 when Borucki was just 11 years old.
Borucki wears No. 56 as an homage to Buehrle, the longtime White Sox lefty who capped his career with three seasons in Toronto from 2013-2015. And he has found success mimicking Buehrle’s quick style on the mound.
“My pace of how I pitch, working fast, just trying to attack the zone with strikes and not trying to overpower anybody, that’s what he always did,” Borucki said of the lessons he took from watching Buehrle over the years.
“It’s cool to get to be able to wear his number now and just kinda do the things he’s done and hopefully, if I’m lucky, have a career just like him.”
Borucki made his MLB debut against the defending World Series champion Astros in Houston last month, holding their potent lineup to two runs over six innings. The 24-year-old has added three more quality starts since then, including Tuesday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins when he allowed two unearned runs over six frames.
Borucki lowered his ERA to 2.79 with that last start, third best among Blue Jays starters through their first five outings, delightfully surprising his manager along the way.
“He’s gotten off to a better start than I thought he would,” John Gibbons said.
While Sunday’s starter officially remained undetermined as of Wednesday, Borucki would be on regular rest for the series finale with Toronto off Thursday.
The team was hoping to have right-hander Marco Estrada back from a left glute strain by the weekend, but a setback in a rehab start Tuesday night — Estrada left a triple-A game in the fourth inning with a blister on his right middle finger — paved the way for Borucki to fulfill his childhood dream in Chicago.
And Gibbons is OK with that.
“It would be kinda neat for him to pitch there. I know he wants to,” Gibbons said. “Maybe that worked out just perfect, we’ll see.
“Any time you can make a dream come true type thing, I like that. Eventually he’d probably pitch there anyway, but it would be kinda nice to happen in his first call up.”
Last month, Borucki’s high school team in Mundelein held a watch party at a local restaurant when Borucki made his debut in Houston.
The rookie expects a large cheering section to show up in Chicago throughout the three-game series, especially if he ends up starting Sunday.
“There’ll be a lot of people,” Borucki said. “I’d say if I’m pitching, there will be a good 100, maybe 200 people there to watch that game.
“It’ll be definitely cool to pitch there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”