Young and old have big nights in MLB

Published 9:49 pm Saturday, May 8, 2010

CINCINNATI — Cubs kid shortstop Starlin Castro made the game look so easy on his first try. Jamie Moyer knows it’s definitely not like that at all.

Both made a little history on a night that belonged to both the young and — sorry, Jamie — the old.

The 20-year-old Castro was awakened by his first call to the majors on Friday morning, shook off his sleepiness and disbelief, then showed he could answer. The youngest shortstop in Cubs history hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat and drove in six runs — a record for a big-league debut — in Chicago’s 14-7 win over Cincinnati.

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“Today was an exceptional, exceptional day,” manager Lou Piniella said.

For Moyer, too.

Over in Philadelphia, the 47-year-old lefty became the oldest player in major league history to throw a shutout, beating the Atlanta Braves 7-0 with a two-hitter. He allowed leadoff singles to Troy Glaus in the second and eighth innings.

It was Moyer’s 10th career shutout and 32nd complete game, one that got the senior citizen jokes flowing.

“The guy is 87 years old and he’s still pitching for a reason,” said Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, who just turned 38. “That’s one of the best nine-inning games by a guy that old that I’ve ever seen.”

The historic night started with the youth.

Castro became only the sixth player in Cubs history to homer in his first big-league at-bat, connecting for a three-run shot off Homer Bailey in the second inning. Piniella had batted him eighth, trying not to put too much pressure on a kid who was in Double-A that morning.

“I didn’t believe it,” Castro said.

Three innings later, the Cubs’ top prospect made his new teammates incredulous as well. He came up with the bases loaded and lined a triple to left-center, sliding headfirst into history. The six RBIs were the most in a modern-day debut, one more than the previous mark shared by four players.

No Cub has ever made such a grand entrance.

“Amazing,” starter Carlos Silva said. “Unbelievable. I was hitting behind him, looking at everything he was doing. I was like: ’Wow.’

“I think he’s going to bring such a new energy to the team. He’s going to do really well here.”

Castro spent spring training with the Cubs — he wore No. 67, an indication he wasn’t going to stay long. He also turned 20 in March, something that was easy to overlook with the way he carried himself. Castro seemed to belong in the unfamiliar surroundings.

“This spring if you didn’t mention that he was 19 years old, you couldn’t tell it by the way he handled himself,” Piniella said.

Still, he knew that Chicago had Ryan Theriot as its everyday shortstop, so there was limited opportunity. Castro didn’t expect to reach the majors until late this season, a September call-up perhaps.

That’s why the 7 a.m. phone call on Friday left him surprised.

“I said, ’Are you serious?”’ Castro said.

He called his parents in the Dominican Republic to share the news and make sure they watched his first game. Wearing the No. 13 that Reds shortstop Davey Concepcion made popular for Latin players, he showed them a few amazing things.

“I’ve never seen a debut like that,” Piniella said.

No one has.

And no one has seen a game quite like the one that the old left-hander threw one state over. Moyer (4-2) struck out five and faced one batter over the minimum to earn his 262nd career victory.

At this stage of his career, Moyer throws a fastball that tops out in the low 80s, slower than a lot of other pitchers’ changeups. Moyer made his debut with the Cubs in 1986 and — left arm willing — still knows how to get them out.

“Ever hear the saying, ’Taking ’em to school?”’ Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He can do that.”

For a time, it looked like school might be out for Moyer. He lost his job in the rotation when the Phillies signed Pedro Martinez last July. Moyer beat out Kyle Kendrick in spring training for the No. 5 spot.

Now, he has eclipsed Phil Niekro for oldest pitcher to throw a shutout.

“This kind of stuff pushes me,” he said. “This is what it’s about.”

And it has no generation barrier.