23-year-old Justin Nicolino was rushed to Cincinnati on Saturday morning after Tom Koehler had to be scratched from his scheduled start against the Reds due to a neck injury. Maybe it was helpful to the kid that he had no time to process all of his emotions.
Nicolino fired seven scoreless innings in his major league debut Saturday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, yielding only four hits and two walks in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball. Miami grabbed a 5-0 win.
As noted by Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the young lefty is the only pitcher in the 23-year history of the Marlins to debut with seven shutout innings. More perspective from Spencer’s game story …
The only other pitchers to make their major-league debuts with the Marlins and go at least six innings without allowing a run were Josh Beckett in 2001 and Adalberto Mendez in 2010.
Brad Penny allowed just one run over seven innings in his debut in 2000.
Nicolino had an impressive 2.87 ERA through 78 1/3 innings this season at Triple-A New Orleans, so maybe this is legit. He was rated a top-100 prospect in 2014 by MLB.com but fell off that list this past winter.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?