'Locked in' Brice cruises in big league debut

Three days after first callup, Marlins prospect strikes out two in perfect frame

'Locked in' Brice cruises in big league debut

MIAMI -- When he was called upon to pitch the eighth inning at Marlins Park on Friday night, Austin Brice was more than ready. The 24-year-old, who was called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday, waited nearly three games before making his big league debut.

If there were any first appearance butterflies, Brice didn't show it in his one inning of work in the Marlins' 4-2 loss to the White Sox. The right-hander struck out two and retired the side in order.

"He got three outs for us tonight and got a couple of punchouts," manager Don Mattingly said. "The bullpen did a nice job, giving us some shots to get back in it. Basically, everybody gets their outs. Obviously, [Brice] was one of those guys who threw the ball well."

Embracing the moment, Brice pounded the zone, throwing nine of his 11 pitches for strikes. His fastball touched 97 mph, and he made quick work of the top of the Chicago order.

Brice's first career strikeout

Adam Eaton, who matched a career high with four hits, was the first batter Brice faced. Miami's No. 9 prospect, according to MLBPipeline, fanned the White Sox leadoff batter on four pitches, the last being an 88.6-mph cutter. After Tyler Saladino grounded out to short, Brice fanned Melky Cabrera with a 95.6-mph fastball.

"I'm still kind of beside myself with the whole thing," Brice said. "It was like looking down a tube out there. I was locked in. The past couple of days, I was ready to go in. When I got the call, I was ready."

Brice opened the season at Double-A Jacksonville before getting some more work at Triple-A. He was with the big league club in Spring Training, and in his short stint then, he impressed Mattingly and the staff.

Homegrown, Brice was Miami's ninth-round pick in 2010. At Double-A, he posted a 2.89 ERA in 27 games, with 13 starts. The Marlins profile Brice as a reliever, so he was switched from the rotation mid-season. At New Orleans, he gave up one run in two innings before getting his first big league callup.

"It's mentally draining, every time the phone rings," Brice said. "You're like, 'This could be it.' And it ends up not being it. It's constantly up and down, but it's worth it when you go in."

On Friday, Brice was one of five Miami relievers to combine for four scoreless innings.

To be successful in the big leagues, Brice said he needs to slow things down.

"When I got out there, I was like, 'Take a pitch at a time,'" he said. "'Don't get ahead of yourself. Do what you did in the Minor Leagues. That's what gets guys out. That's why you're here.' I just tried to execute."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.