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West Point graduate Chris Rowley dazzles in Major League debut

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On the night before his big league debut, Blue Jays’ pitcher Chris Rowley tried to wrap his head around the milestone he was about to set. “It’s something that I’m not sure I really understand the magnitude of,” he told reporters Friday. “I’m not sure I ever will, but it’s something I’m trying to digest a little bit. It’s something I’ve tried to appreciate, but at the same time I have a job to do.” The 26-year-old right-hander became the first West Point graduate to pitch in Major League Baseball when he stepped on the mound during Saturday’s game against the Pirates.

Prior to the start of the 2016 season, Rowley had only pitched 32 2/3 innings at any professional level. He served a two-year commitment to the U.S. Army in 2014 and 2015 and was eligible for early release before returning to a career in pro ball, though he’s still technically on individual ready reserve. His stuff impressed in High-A Dunedin, where he issued a 3.49 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 123 2/3 innings in 2016. In 2017, he quickly ascended the rungs of Toronto’s minor league system, earning a combined 6-6 record and 2.29 ERA in back-to-back gigs with Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.

When fellow Toronto right-hander Cesar Valdez hit the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder impingement, the latest in a long line of injuries to befall the Blue Jays’ rotation, Rowley got the call he had been waiting for. He stepped into his role with ease on Saturday afternoon, striking out three batters and allowing five hits, a walk and a run over 5 1/3 solid innings against the Pirates.

Backed by a seven-run outpouring from the Blue Jays, Rowley not only made a favorable impression on his new team, but notched his first Major League win, too. He was excused in the sixth inning after working into a jam, and walked off the field to a standing ovation from the 46,179 fans in attendance at Rogers Centre.

“This is the dream,” said Rowley. “That was a really special moment, and I wanted to make sure that I took it in. I didn’t want to just put my head down and go into the dugout, I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed it.”

Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.