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After a 'surreal' MLB debut with the Marlins, can Jordan Yamamoto follow it up?

Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald on

Published in Baseball

Jordan Yamamoto crouched in front of the pitcher's mound at Marlins Park, facing toward center field, and soaked in the moment.

This is it. Yamamoto -- 23 years old, part-time team barber and full-time starting pitcher -- was minutes from making his Major League Baseball debut against the St. Louis Cardinals.

His journey that began Pearl City, Hawaii -- on the island of Oahu -- and continued for five and a half years in the minor leagues, the last 18 months of which with the Marlins after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers as one of four prospects in the Christian Yelich trade culminated in this moment.

"I was really nervous," Yamamoto said.

His first pitch: an 89-mph fastball to Matt Carpenter that nibbled at the upper-left corner of the strike zone. Called strike. Three pitches later, he had Carpenter fly out to center field.

He was out of the first inning after eight pitches. Seven innings later, he finished his debut without giving up a run as the Marlins went on to defeat the Cardinals 9-0 -- one of just two wins by the Marlins during their nine-game homestead.

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"I was sweating all day," Yamamoto said, "but once I got that first guy out, it all kind of calmed down and was like 'OK. Let's go.' "

Now comes the real question: Can Yamamoto follow up his stellar debut with another quality performance? He will get that chance Tuesday in St. Louis against the same Cardinals team he shut out just six days earlier.

"This is definitely something," Yamamoto said. "It was so surreal. You just enjoy the moment, enjoy the ride and enjoy everybody cheering you on."

One day before his debut, Yamamoto was boarding the team bus for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Marlins' Double A affiliate, and reading a scouting report on the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox's affiliate. He was game-planning for how to shut down Luis Robert, one the Barons' top offensive player.

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