Devin Smeltzer pitched a gem in his MLB debut Tuesday night, firing six shutout innings to lead the Twins to a 5-3 win over the Brewers. But his story is much more than a successful night on the mound.
Smeltzer, 23, is a cancer survivor. According to Philly.com, Smeltzer was growing up in New Jersey as a 9-year-old when doctors found a tumor the size of a grapefruit in his bladder.
"The fourth grader went through months of treatments. He lost his hair. He had no appetite for anything but garlic croutons and Doritos. He didn’t get a feeding tube implanted, because that would take away his true love: baseball."
He went into remission when he was 12, all the while maintaining his dream of playing Major League Baseball.
"He's had to fight through a lot," said broadcaster Jack Morris, audibly fighting back tears while the TV cameras focused on Smeltzer. Morris, a World Series hero for the Twins, was telling a story on Fox Sports North about Smeltzer's journey to the big leagues.
Morris' tears weren't the only ones at the ballpark. Smeltzer's parents were at the game along with 20 or so other friends and family, and both told FSN's Marney Gellner that they were crying every time he struck a batter out – he struck out seven.
Smeltzer himself got choked up when Gellner asked what having family and friends in Minneapolis for his debut meant to him.
Smeltzer could stick with the Twins for at least a while longer, as right-hander Michael Pineda is on the 10-day injured list with knee soreness. However, the Twins are off Wednesday and next Monday, so they could also decide to go with a four-man rotation and send Smeltzer back to Triple-A Rochester to keep him on a consistent schedule.
The lefty posting zeroes across the board in his debut shouldn't come as a total surprise. In nine minor-league starts this season, Smeltzer has allowed just seven earned runs and has a 1.15 ERA.
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