Rookie Matt Mervis gets RBI single in major-league debut as Cubs beat Marlins

Manager David Ross said Mervis will get consistent playing time as the Cubs try to work out of an offensive rut.

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Cubs rookie Matt Mervis hits a single in the eighth inning of Friday’s win over the Marlins.

Cubs rookie Matt Mervis hits a single in the eighth inning of Friday’s win over the Marlins.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Former general manager Al Campanis once described a 20-year-old Candy Maldonado as ‘‘another Roberto Clemente’’ and declared ‘‘the first of 3,000’’ after the uber-hyped Dodgers prospect collected his first major-league hit in 1981.

Similar lofty expectations were cast upon Kris Bryant and Javy Baez nearly a decade ago, when the Cubs started to generate publicity toward their wave of talent that also included players such as Junior Lake and Albert Almora Jr.

The Cubs have been careful not to place lofty expectations on first baseman Matt Mervis, but the timing of the left-handed slugger’s promotion to the majors and the ensuing hoopla was curious, to say the least.

After going hitless with two strikeouts in his first three at-bats Friday, Mervis smacked an RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning for his first major-league hit. It provided insurance in the Cubs’ 4-1 victory against the Marlins.

Mervis slapped his hands with great satisfaction after the hit, which came moments after Trey Mancini had been walked intentionally to get to him. The hit prompted a large majority of the 31,181 fans at Wrigley Field to reward him with the second of three standing ovations.

‘‘I think I got chills, and teammates were going crazy,’’ said Mervis, who was proud he could share his debut with his parents in attendance.

Left fielder Ian Happ, who robbed Jazz Chisholm Jr. of a two-run hit with a running catch in the fourth and hit a two-run home run in the fifth, was delighted that Mervis came through in his debut.

‘‘You have a bunch of veteran guys who have been around who have seen that,’’ Happ said. ‘‘Everyone is super-excited for him to get the opportunity, and then for him to come through in that at-bat is a very cool moment.’’

Mervis went from an undrafted free agent after the five-round 2020 draft to a 36-homer slugger at three minor-league levels in 2022.

Manager David Ross said Mervis will get consistent playing time as the Cubs try to work out of an offensive rut that saw them average 3.5 runs with a .235 batting average and a .703 OPS in the 12 games before their victory Friday, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

‘‘Right now, we can use an offensive jolt at the bottom [of the order],’’ Ross said.

This marks the first time in Ross’ four seasons as the Cubs’ manager that a highly touted hitting prospect has been promoted from the minors this early in a season.

It also comes at a time when the National League Central, with the favored Cardinals off to a horrific start, is winnable.

For Mervis, his promotion fulfills a lifelong dream but also increases the scrutiny.

‘‘I have high expectations for myself,’’ Mervis said before the game. ‘‘I expect to come in and help us win right away. Whatever Twitter or the media is saying about me, I’m sure I’m thinking the same thing about my own performance.’’

Ross said he liked Mervis’ composure, especially after he struck out on a 94 mph pitch from Marlins starter Edward Cabrera in his first at-bat. On his first big-league hit, he smacked an 88 mph slider from Tanner Scott that produced an exit velocity of 111.2 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

‘‘I like the way he handled the moments,’’ Ross said. ‘‘He didn’t get outside of [the strike zone]. He took good swings and saw some nasty pitches. I thought he was aggressive and calm and not jumpy.’’

After learning of his promotion, Mervis placed his first call to his mother, Ellen. But his father, Jeff, who wore his son’s Arizona Fall League jersey at to the game Friday, will get the ball from the first hit.

‘‘He presents that stuff proudly in his office,’’ Mervis said.

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