Amalie Benjamin, Globe Staff wrote:
A start in the big leagues in April, less than two years after being drafted in the second round out of San Diego State, wasn't quite the plan Justin Masterson had in mind. But he didn't rule out an expeditious arrival while in spring training, saying, "I'm looking to definitely September, possibly have that call-up, but I don't count it out for any time before that."
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And that's a good thing, given that Masterson got the call Wednesday night to drive to Boston from Portland, Maine, destined for his major league debut against the Angels yesterday.
It was more than anyone - perhaps even Masterson - could have expected. Not only did he go six innings (more than he had in four starts in Double A), throwing 95 pitches and allowing just two hits, he also left with the Red Sox ahead, 3-1. The bullpen couldn't deliver Masterson his first big-league win, though, faltering over the final three innings in a 7-5 loss.
One of the two hits he allowed was a home run by Mike Napoli over the bullpen in center field, but that was the only damage incurred by the 23-year-old righthander, who didn't have much time to prepare for his matinee appearance.
"I was at home with my wife [Wednesday afternoon], trying to figure out something to do," Masterson said. "My coach called, [Portland pitching coach] Mike Cather, and said, 'Are you ready for your start?' I go, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'Well, good, it's going to be at Fenway.' So then I scrambled to get everything together and drive down here.
"Honestly, I didn't think he was serious. I didn't think he was joking, I thought maybe he misspoke, he meant Pawtucket. I got to the field in about 10 minutes. Everyone was like, 'Congratulations.' I was like, 'I really am going?' "
Yes he was.
The sinkerballer got 11 of his 18 outs on ground balls, including one bunt and one double-play ball. He also had three fly outs and four strikeouts, and walked four.
"When he left spring training, he said he wanted to work on his changeup, and that's exactly what it looks like he did," manager Terry Francona said. "He's got great, tremendous late movement on his two-seamer and as his second pitches come, which they are, he's going to be a complete pitcher."
Especially as he works on that changeup. The Angels' Casey Kotchman sent one a long way foul in the second inning before swinging through another on the next pitch. Masterson didn't expect to use the pitch so often.
"I think I threw more changeups in this outing than I have the whole season so far," Masterson said. "I was real happy with how the changeup looked, mix in some sliders, and used what got me here, the sinker. I was actually real happy with the mix."
Masterson was sent back to Portland after the game, but that hardly dampened the spirits of his entourage outside the clubhouse. About 10 family members, including his wife, parents, brother, and sister, and a couple of friends from home (Ohio), were gathered around the door, his wife Meryl wearing Masterson's Sea Dogs jersey. Mark Masterson learned about his son's good news Wednesday night, and went to tell his wife, who was at work.
"We all screamed," Masterson's mother, Judy, said. "Never thought he would be here so soon. Always thought he would be here, but never thought it would be in April."
Flights were booked quickly, a 4 a.m. departure for the airport, an hour stop in New Jersey, and finally an arrival in Boston.
In the end, Justin Masterson had just one regret.
It wasn't that he didn't get the win. It was that the Red Sox didn't win. That was the goal.
It didn't happen. But even so, if his first start is any indication, Masterson will be getting another chance soon.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org