Home News Roupp’s unlikely MLB debut an ‘out of body experience’

Roupp’s unlikely MLB debut an ‘out of body experience’


Roupp's unlikely MLB debut an 'out of body experience'

SAN DIEGO — The path Landen Roupp took to his major-league debut was so unlikely that even the young right-hander couldn’t envision it six weeks ago at the start of spring training, when he was just another non-roster invitee and wasn’t expected to even pitch in a Cactus League game.

And yet, when the bullpen phone rang in the sixth inning of the second game of the season, with the Giants holding a two-run lead Friday night, the voice on the other end of the line told Roupp to get ready. It would be the first appearance of his career above Double-A.

By the time Roupp emerged from the bullpen door in center field and took the mound, the Giants had widened their lead in the eventual 8-3 win, but that didn’t lessen the adrenaline pulsing through the 25-year-old right-hander’s North Carolina blood.

“I didn’t really feel anything, but I could tell I was amped up when I was out there throwing,” Roupp said. “It was unreal.”

Manager Bob Melvin called it “one of those out-of-body experience things,” given Roupp’s standing just last month.

Highly touted internally for the movement of his 12-to-6 curveball, the velocity of his sinker and the ability to command both pitches, Roupp received an invite to big-league spring training. But after being shut down last July when a disc slipped in his back, Roupp spent the first half of camp throwing bullpens and begging the coaching staff to get him into a game.

They couldn’t say no, and once they saw him against major-league hitters, they couldn’t keep him off the roster.

Posting a 2.25 ERA and striking out 13 batters in four Cactus League appearances, Roupp still couldn’t bring himself to believe he stood a chance at cracking the Opening Day roster. His 10 starts last year at Double-A Richmond were good ones, totaling a 1.74 ERA, but that’s all they were: 10 starts at Double-A.

When he was scratched from his start Tuesday in the final Bay Bridge exhibition, Roupp began to suspect something was happening.

But even when Melvin broke the news to him after the game, it still took him a moment to process reality.

“I don’t think I ever even thought about it,” Roupp said. “I thought I was either going to go back to Richmond or start the year at Triple-A.”

Roupp’s longterm path remains in the starting rotation. He possesses a four-seam fastball and a slider in addition to the sinker and curveball. But his two primary pitches proved to be such a lethal combination — and the Giants were in such need for bullpen innings — that he forced his way onto the 40- and 26-man rosters.

As the rest of the ballpark stood and sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Roupp jogged in from the bullpen, relieving Kyle Harrison after his efficient six innings. Teammates at two previous minor-league stops, Harrison stuck around in the dugout to watch Roupp retire the side on 16 pitches.

“I had to stay for it. I had to watch him,” Harrison said. “Really proud of him. That guy works hard. He wasn’t nervous at all. Sky’s the limit for that kid. I thought he did great. He filled up the zone.”

In the postgame clubhouse, Roupp in a flannel shirt and cowboy boots posed with his No. 65 jersey. An authenticator from MLB was working to get him the baseball from his first out, a pop up to Thairo Estrada that was all Jurickson Profar could muster off a full-count curveball.

The next batter, Luis Campusano, attacked the first pitch he saw, another curveball, and lined it into left field. But Roupp rebounded, pitching around the one-out single by retiring the two left-handed pinch-hitters the Padres brought off the bench to gain the platoon advantage against him.

Ten of the 16 pitches Roupp threw were curveballs, mixing in a sinker that maxed out at 95 mph.

“First hitter, he throws a 3-2 curveball,” Melvin said. “So that kind of shows you how he feels about his stuff.”

The only thing he didn’t do was get a strikeout.

“He’s probably going to be upset about that,” Harrison smiled.

“Oh, yeah,” Roupp laughed, “definitely upset about that.”

“But no,” Harrison finished, “I don’t think he could care. To put up a zero in your big-league debut, I wish I could’ve done that.”

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