What a terrific weekend for Independent Baseball players in the major leagues.
For starters, Scott Patterson, who needed four and a half years in the Indy game before even getting to a major league organization, and Brad Ziegler, who also owes a debt to the non-affiliated ranks, both made their major league debut. And Craig Breslow, the only lefty among the three hurlers, made an exceptional debut with Minnesota, his fourth major league team since leaving the Independent ranks.
Patterson, who we wrote about in this space and heavily in our Independent Baseball Insider column during spring training when he was a late cut by the New York Yankees, left his Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Triple-A teammates in Rochester, NY early Sunday morning, flew through Chicago and got to Minneapolis in time to pitch in the sixth and seventh innings of the Yankees' 5-1 loss to the Twins. Known for terrific control, Patterson, probably with his nerves not yet under control, walked two, gave up a hit and a run in 1.1 innings.
"I was thinking, man, is this really real," Patterson told The New York Times.
Patterson went 28-8 during his extensive Independent career which started with three full seasons (2002-4) with the Gateway Grizzlies in Sauget, IL of the Frontier League, then split '05 between Gateway and the Atlantic League's Lancaster (Pa) Barnstormers as he started learning how to close games. His tremendous run with Lancaster at the start of 2006 (20 games, 2-0, 14 saves, 0.78 ERA, five walks, 31 strikeouts) led the Yankees to come calling.
Ziegler only pitched four times in Indy baseball (3-1, 1.50, 12 hits in 24 innings, one walk, 26 strikeouts for Schaumburg, IL of the Northern League in 2004), but that represented a second chance since Philadelphia drafted him in the 20th round in 2003, pitched him in relief three times and released the Southwest Missouri State product less than a year later. He climbed the Oakland ladder in just under four seasons before debuting with a one-out, one-hit stint against the Texas Rangers Saturday.
Both Patterson and Ziegler turn 29 later this year.
Breslow, 27, has been in and out of the major leagues since 2005 (San Diego, Boston, Cleveland), but his debut with Minnesota Saturday had to be special. Not only was he facing the Yankees, who are based only about 50 miles from his Trumbull, CT home, but he faced--and struck out--the heart of New York's lineup, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. Only three of the 23 pitches Breslow threw were balls as he got five outs in the eventual 12-inning Twins home loss. Breslow has gone from Boston's Triple-A roster to a seldom-used role with Cleveland to this high note with the contending Twins already this season.
The Yale University graduate was released by Milwaukee two and a half years after drafting him, and he signed with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls) midway in 2004. He signed with San Diego the next spring, and was with the parent Padres before the year was over.
In one down note, Minnesota designated for assignment infielder Howie Clark, who once played for Chico, CA in Independent Baseball.