MILWAUKEE — As the game wore on Tuesday, Cubs right-hander Daniel Palencia didn’t expect to make his major league debut. It was a close match so manager David Ross thought about calling in more experienced arms.
Then the Brewers tied the score in the ninth inning and the game went into extra innings. Ross was running out of bullpen options and turned to the hard-throwing Palencia.
“My mentality was, ‘I’m a monster,'” Palencia said after pitching two scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 7-6 win at American Family Field. ” ‘I’m going to win this game. Look at the glove, hit the glove.’ ”
The Cubs selected Palencia’s contract from Triple-A Iowa before the game and optioned Iowa right-hander Hayden Wesneski to stretch him as a starting option and free up a spot on the active roster. To make room on the 40-man roster, the club moved reliever Brad Boxberger (right forearm out) from the 15-day injured list to the 60-day IL.
The Cubs also placed infielder Nick Madrigal in the 10-day IL with a strained right hamstring and activated utility player Patrick Wisdom (sprained right wrist).
The Cubs originally acquired Palencia along with outfielder Greg Deichmann from the Athletics for lefty reliever Andrew Chafin in a deal to trade deadline in 2021.
The Cubs were considering moving Palencia and his 100 mph fastball to the bullpen and finally committed to the change in May. They moved him from Double-A Tennessee to their spring training complex in Arizona to begin the transition.
“I was thinking, ‘This is a big chance for me,'” Palencia said. ” ‘The bullpen needs help. I think I can be that guy to improve the team.’ ”
After Palencia spent a few weeks in Arizona, the Cubs promoted him to Iowa. He posted a 7.90 ERA there, but nearly all of those runs came in three high-scoring starts over 13 outings.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while,” President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer said of Palencia’s callup. ”I think his transition is absolutely complete? No. I think it will take some time. He’s still learning how to play the bullpen and stuff like that. But we felt like he was a guy that the time was right to see what he can do up here.”
Hard to imagine a better debut.
”Phenomenal work,” said Ross after the match. ”That environment the first time out, to calm the nerves, the place is standing.”
Palencia entered the game in the bottom of 10th with the score tied and the extra innings automatic runner at second base.
Over the next two innings, he threw a flyout, fielded a grounder himself, and induced a pair of unique double plays made possible by spot-on pitches by left fielder Ian Happ.
“If there was any kind of debut to accelerate on you, that would be it, right?” said second baseman Nico Hoerner. ”He won’t get much crazier than that. So just a nice sign as to what kind of personality he has and is just excited to have him around.”