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Carlos Estevez' MLB debut a "blessing" after a long journey

Drew Creasman Avatar
April 25, 2016

 

Denver — Carlos Estevez stood at his locker trying — but not very hard — to fight back his trademark smile as reporter after reporter approached him, shook his hand, and offered their congratulations.

I asked him if his MLB debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers — and aprticularly facing Yasiel Puig in his first AB — was exciting, intimidating, or some combination therof.

“Exciting. More exciting,” he answered. “Now I’m where the guys are all maybe like that. They have the best up here. That’s why I was excited.”

In order to fully understand how surreal it was for Carlos Estevez to take an the mound and stare down Puig in his first ever appearance in Major League Baseball, you first must understand where he was just one short year ago.

Exactly a year before the day of his debut, on April 23, 2015, Estevez pitched two innings for the High-A Modesto Nuts, striking out five without allowing a baserunner on the way to his second Save of the season. That’s right: One trip around the sun and Estevez went from a player in Single-A ball to a Major Leaguer asked to get important outs against the likes of Puig and Adrian Gonzalez.

“He gave us a couple of scoreless [innings] in his Major League debut. There’s a lot to be excited about there. It’s a big arm,” raved manager Walt Weiss. “It’s power stuff and theres some deception there. He’s shown a good breaking ball. Showed a lot of composure for a first time out against a very good club.”

Composure and confidence are what Estevez is known for. If he fails to produce at this level, it won’t be due to a lack of either of those characeristics. “I got butterlies at the beginning,” he says, because who wouldn’t? But he goes on: “After the first pitch: ‘OK the lights are on let’s go. Let’s do my job. Let’s get outs.” That’s the kind of focus and confidence you want in a guy coming out of the Coors Field bullpen.

Even in his name, Estevez show confidence and awareness. He is very much aware that he shares a birth name with celebrity Charlie Sheen and has never shied away from the baseball implications that brings, including warming up to “Wild Thing” just like Sheen’s character Ricky Vaughn from Major League. Any pitcher would love to have pinpoint control, but the intimidating fastball and ocassional bouts with wildness make the song and name just that much more perfect.

“Sometimes it’s not on purpose,” he says about his wilingness to pitch up and in, controlling the inside part of the plate. “But I make it look like it.”

It would be misleading to say that Estevez’ rise has been meteoric. If anything, it has been the perfect opposite of the concept “hurry up and wait.” It would be easy to assume he got here fast due to the fact that he wet so far in such a short time, and still has only 5.2 IP at the Triple-A level, but the fire-throwing reliever has been in the Rockies system since 2011. And it hasn’t always been easy, even in the last year.

“I stuggled in Double-A,” he says, “But I got experience against veterans. That was big.” Unlike many higher-touted prospects, Estevez’ early career was defined by exerpiencing struggles and then overcoming them. And he learned something each time.

My first several conversations with Estevez in Grand Junction were all about Raimel Tapia and other Latin players. In addition to being a pleasure to talk to in general, he often served as defacto tranlator for his Minor League teammates. He had a rough season on the field in 2013 and it ocurred to me on the night of his MLB debut that despite our many conversations, I rarely asked Estevez any questions about him.

Well, he took care of that on Saturday night. And now I’m not the only one asking.

“I’m just blessed to be here,” Estevez told me as the reporter scrum broke up and the realization of the moment really sunk in. “I had no idea they were going to call me up. I am blessed.” There was a lack of fanfare at times in his minor league career, but Estevez let his fastball and slider do the talking. Now, after a convincing strikeout against Puig, and general domination over the Dodgers in his first game, he has our attention.

 

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