On an unseasonably chilly, wet night at Wrigley Field, in the ninth inning with his team trailing the Cubs by four runs, Zack Collins walked up to the plate and made his major-league debut.
It was a big moment for Collins’ family and friends who were in attendance Wednesday, and it created some late-breaking buzz on White Sox Twitter. Collins, a 6-3, 220-pound catcher who can play first base, was a No. 10 overall pick by the Sox three years ago.
“It was huge for me,” said Collins, who’s 24. “It was a dream come true. Just stepping up to the plate, looking to the outfield, seeing the crowd.”
Pinch-hitting against Cubs sidewinder Steve Cishek, the left-handed-hitting Collins had an apropos first plate appearance. He patiently worked a full count, fouled off a pitch and drew a walk.
“Trying to get on base, trying to keep the train moving,” Collins said. “I thought I put a good at-bat together. And it was a lot of fun.”
Two hundred fifty-seven walks over four minor-league seasons are something Collins boasts on his minor-league record, a testament to his batting eye and a boost to a career on-base percentage (.378) that makes his batting average (.234) easier to tolerate. There’s also some power — 49 home runs, including nine in 50 games at Class AAA Charlotte this season — as well as 399 strikeouts.
Called up from Charlotte on Tuesday after No. 2 catcher Welington Castillo landed on the injured list with a strained left oblique, Collins did not start in the two games at Wrigley Field against left-handers Cole Hamels and Jon Lester. He was passed over in favor of Yonder Alonso in two pinch-hitting situations before manager Rick Renteria called his number.
Collins is anticipating his first start when the Sox play at the Rangers, who are starting three right-handers this weekend, and having the brief Wrigley experience greased the skids.
‘‘Yeah, for sure,” Collins said. “I think that’s pretty much why I hit in that situation, to try to get as many butterflies out as we can before hopefully I make a start in Texas. I definitely had some butterflies.”
Collins’ bat is considered to be a stronger asset than his work behind the plate, but he can also play first base and provides an option as a lefty-hitting designated hitter, a spot Alonso has failed to fill with adequate production. Whether he’s here for the short or long term is to be determined. At the very least, he figures to gain from sticking close to James McCann, who will show him plenty, including how he prepares to call a game.
“We’re going to remain open-minded about how long Zack will be with us,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Even if it turns out that his stay is only the few weeks until Castillo returns, we still view this as a good opportunity to advance his development. Having him experience firsthand both the prep work and adjustments that go into game-planning at the major-league level will serve him well for the long run.”
It has been quite a week for Collins, starting with a phone call to his dad on Father’s Day to let him know he was headed to the majors for a debut at historic Wrigley Field in front of the biggest crowd he has ever played for, no less.
“Then we go to Texas and then straight to Fenway,’’ Collins said. ‘‘I don’t know if it could be any better.’’
When Collins got to first base after the base on balls, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo offered his congrats.
“That was pretty cool,” Collins said. “Other than that, I was kind of in a daze out there looking around. Like you said, soaking it all in, enjoying the moment.”
SOX AT RANGERS
Friday: Reynaldo Lopez (4-7, 6.31) vs. Ariel Jurado (4-3, 4.23), 7:05 p.m., NBCSCH, 720-AM.
Saturday: Odrisamer Despaigne (0-2, 8.71) vs. Lance Lynn (8-4, 4.16), 8:05 p.m., NBCSCH, 720-AM.
Sunday: Ivan Nova (3-5, 6.01) vs. Adrian Sampson (5-4, 4.40), 2:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.