Jays rookie shows stuff, denied win

MIKE RUTSEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays didn't know what to expect when they faced Blue Jays rookie left-hander Marc Rzepczynski last night.

That seemed fair, because neither did the Jays.

Due to the mounting injuries to their starting pitchers -- emergency starter Brad Mills being a scratch because of injured ribs -- Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-chin-ski) got the call despite making just two starts at the triple-A level with Las Vegas.

Manager Cito Gaston had never laid eyes on him before and Rod Barajas had never caught him.

In taking the ball, Rzepczynski became the fifth rookie to start a game for the Jays this season, a club record.

Last night against a dangerous lineup, not only did he not embarrass himself, he thrived in earning a no-decision in a game the Jays would lose 3-1 in 11 innings on a two-out, two-run walkoff home run by Pat Burrell off Brandon League.

With a career minor-league record of 21-11, Rzepczynski, a fifth-round pick from the class of 2007, is a definite prospect.

"He pitched a great game for us," Gaston said. "He pitched a lot better than I think all of us thought he was going to pitch. I hope that the next time he goes out there for us, he pitches the same way."

His only blemish came in the fourth when, with two on and two out, he walked Jason Bartlett to load the bases. He then walked Gabe Kapler on a full count to bring in a run.

That would be it. Over six innings, the 23-year-old rookie allowed just the one run on two hits, walked four and struck out seven.

"I just tried too hard and started cutting off pitches and stuff like that and my nerves got to me a little bit that inning," he said of the three-walk fourth.

But that's nit-picking.

"I haven't faced this kind of talent before so it was really good," he said. "I established my fastball early and after that I could throw my slider and a couple of changeups and except for the fourth inning I was happy with that (his outing)."

And he'll get another start Sunday against Baltimore in the last game prior to the all-star break.


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