PITTSBURGH -- Each bit of advice, Matt Bowman had filed away. First the suggestion from his pitching coach to let his legs work at 75 percent. The difference, Derek Lilliquist had cautioned, would be made up by adrenaline. Starter Adam Wainwright later reminded him to breathe, lest the game speed up on him.
What no one could prepare Bowman for as he trotted out from the PNC Park bullpen to make his Major League debut in the Cardinals' 5-1 loss to the Pirates, however, was the magnitude of the moment. To counter that, Bowman simply chose not to peek at all that was around.
"I made sure I looked down," Bowman admitted after throwing two scoreless innings on Wednesday in a 5-1 Cardinals loss. "[I] didn't try to see how big the stadium was."
What Bowman learned by the end of the 28-pitch appearance, though, was that this was not a stage too big for him. A Rule 5 reliever who snuck onto the roster in the final days of camp because of an injury to Jordan Walden did not look out of place in his first opportunity to show he deserves to stick.
The right-hander opened his Major League career with a strikeout of Francisco Cervelli and closed the outing by starting a double play to strand a runner on third in the eighth.
"I'm happy to have debuted," Bowman said. "I'm not so happy of it [coming in] a loss. But I'm happy I got that out of the way, and I feel like I can contribute to the team."
Bowman was in line to enter Tuesday's extra-inning game had it extended much deeper, and he actually warmed in the first inning of Wednesday's loss as Mike Leake's pitch count quickly swelled. Leake's ability to navigate through that inning and cover several more meant Bowman had to wait until the seventh inning to enter.
That often-unglamorous relief role that Carlos Villanueva handled so well for this team last year is the one the Cardinals hope Bowman, 24, can also seize.
"Everything I thought was sharp, and, for the most part, ground balls," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought it was just a real good day for him."
At the end of his second inning, Bowman finally gave in. He allowed himself to look up and soak in the moment ever so briefly. He did so by spotting his mother sitting above the first-base dugout and acknowledging her with a nod.
"I'm certainly happy to be here and happy for the opportunity," Bowman said. "I'm hoping that I can be a guy that steps up."