SAN FRANCISCO -- From a professional standpoint as well as a personal one, Steven Okert's Major League debut was a rousing success.
Accustomed to pitching one inning, as is the case with most relievers, Okert blanked the D-backs for the final two innings in the Giants' 3-0 loss Tuesday. The significance of Okert's ability to excel for multiple innings resulted from a pregame remark issued by manager Bruce Bochy, as he discussed Okert's recall from Triple-A Sacramento. Okert, he said, would combine with fellow callup Mike Broadway to form San Francisco's new long-relief corps. Thus, Okert's durability suited Bochy just fine, as well as his knack for pitching out of trouble.
"Great debut for the kid," Bochy said. "He was really poised."
Among the AT&T Park spectators who witnessed Okert's milestone performance were his father, Roger, and his mother, Tammy, who arrived in time from Dallas to see their son pitch despite being informed of his recall from Triple-A Sacramento that afternoon. Okert said that general manager Bobby Evans and others engineered transportation for the Okerts, who were shown on television reveling in their son's good fortune.
By comparison, Okert only needed to drive from Sacramento, which can be a chore depending on traffic. But he said that he reached AT&T Park at around 2:45 p.m.
Asked what aspect of his excellent adventure he would remember the most, the 24-year-old said, "The whole day -- getting the call this morning when I was hanging out at the apartment, not at all expecting it, driving up here and getting to throw my first big league game. It would have been awesome if we could have won the game, but just the whole day, getting to come up here was amazing."
Rated by MLBPipeline.com as the Giants' 16th-best prospect in their organization, Okert might have felt amazed by the defensive support he received. Okert christened the eighth inning, along with his Major League career, by walking Welington Castillo. But Okert recovered quickly by forcing Nick Ahmed's double-play grounder. One inning later, third baseman Matt Duffy expertly charged Jean Segura's tricky, slow bouncer and threw to first base for the out.
Okert marveled in "knowing that at every position, you had another plus-plus fielder. I feel like the ball could have been hit anywhere and they would have made a play behind me."
Okert also generated his own outs by fanning left-handed batters Jake Lamb and David Peralta in the ninth. This reinforced the Okert's reputation for excelling against fellow lefties, who he limited to a .228 batting average last year in Triple-A.
Though Okert admitted feeling "pretty nervous," catcher Trevor Brown's presence reassured him. With Brown behind the plate, Okert knew that he could bury pitches in the dirt against hitters such as Lamb and Peralta and those deliveries wouldn't scoot to the backstop.
"I've had Brownnie for a couple of years now," Okert said. "I trusted that he would block it if I had it on the ground. Obviously it worked out."