Big league debut a thrill for Perry
Reliever retires Blue Jays in order Wednesday
TORONTO -- How many deep breaths did Ryan Perry need to calm down Wednesday night?
"A lot," Perry said. "I can't even count."
They didn't really help that much. Getting three outs helped more.
As it turned out, Perry knew going into the game that it would be his Major League debut. Toronto's game-winning rally in the ninth inning Tuesday kept Perry from pitching the 10th as planned.
With Perry and Fernando Rodney as the only relievers who didn't pitch in the first two games, manager Jim Leyland didn't want them going another day without throwing. Thus, regardless of the score, Leyland wanted Perry and Rodney pitching Wednesday.
Once Bobby Seay retired the side in order in the seventh, Perry was set for the eighth. But knowing ahead of time wasn't much for a calming influence.
Asked when the adrenaline started racing, Perry said, "Once the phone rang, once I got on the mound in the bullpen."
His warmup tosses showed it. He sailed one over bullpen catcher Scott Pickens, Leyland said. Once he got onto the mound, he wasn't quite that wild, but he was still battling himself as much as the hitter.
He never totally settled down, but he settled in. He went full on leadoff man Aaron Hill, unable to get him to go after two-strike sliders, before Hill grounded out to third. He went to a 3-0 count on Alex Rios before overpowering the slugger on three fastballs, the last of them off the outside corner as Rios went down swinging for Perry's first big league strikeout.
"Awesome," Perry said, "especially getting a good hitter like that."
After Perry missed on two balls inside to Vernon Wells, he induced Wells to swing at one high around the inside corner.
Finally, Perry allowed himself to relax.
"That was awesome," he said. "That was kind of when the adrenaline started to die down. I knew I had gotten my first appearance out of the way. I'm glad it happened like that."
That was the key phrase that Perry kept using -- getting it out of the way. He said much the same thing about his first Spring Training appearance back in late February. His heart rate was going so high during that appearance that he was actually a bit startled. Each successive appearance made him calmer and calmer -- or more importantly, each successful out.
Leyland figures the same will happen going forward. Perry expects it, too. For someone who thrives on adrenaline, he'll never be completely calm.
"It'll still be nerve-wracking -- one inning isn't going to stop the adrenaline," he said. "It'll take quite a few more times. But it definitely helps. It's a start. I know the more I get out there, the more I'll settle down, and it'll be a lot easier. I'm looking forward to that."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.