LOS ANGELES -- With a four-run lead in the ninth inning on Friday night, the Dodgers turned to rookie Adam Liberatore to finish out the game, the same day he joined the team for his major league debut.
"I was a little eratic at first, but I just tried to slow myself down and not walk anyone," Liberatore said after the game.
The left-hander accomplished his goal, not only not walking anyone but also pitching a perfect inning. He got Corey Dickerson to ground out, Drew Stubbs to fly out, then struck out pinch hitter Michael McKenry to close out the win.
"That was pretty cool to come in and be able to finish the game," Liberatore said. "When I got two strikes on the last guy the crowd made some noise. That was pretty cool."
Liberatore got the news that he'd be headed to the big leagues from Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Damon Berryhill on Thursday night. Liberatore, who turns 28 in four weeks, was asked after his debut if it felt like a long journey to the majors.
He paused, let out a breath, smiled and said, "It was."
The Rays drafted Liberatore in the 21st round in 2010 out of Tennessee Tech, the same school that produced Wednesday waiver claim and potential old friend Ryan Dennick one year earlier.
But after five years in the minors Liberatore had a 2.69 ERA, a 23.4-percent strikeout rate, an 8.4-percent walk rate but no major league experience. It wasn't until after putting up a monster 2014 season — 1.66 ERA in 54 games, 34.8-percent strikeout rate, 6.1-percent walk rate — that he was even added to the 40-man roster.
"I don't think there is any secret. I just try to go out and make good pitches," said the no-nonsense Liberatore. "That's it."
That day came last November, when the Dodgers acquired Liberatore along with Joel Peralta in a four-player trade with the Rays, Andrew Friedman's old team.
Liberatore continued to impress in spring training, allowing no runs in his 11 appearances, striking out nine while allowing just seven baserunners in 10⅓ innings. He nearly made the team out of spring training.
After two games in Oklahoma City, Liberatore is finally in the big leagues. He is the ninth Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher to get a game finished in a win in his major league debut, and the first since Brent Leach in 2009 (thanks to David Young for this tidbit).
Liberatore was given the ball from his first strikeout as well as the lineup card as mementos of his major league debut.
"I'm loving it right now, this was a great experience to get to come up here," he said. "My teammates have all been good, coming up to congratulate me."