Right-hander Jonathan Stiever tilted his head back and took enough deep exhales during his first major-league inning Sunday to turn the flags around at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Battling a case of nerves pitching in his first game above Class A — and his first actual game in a year — Stiever, 23, walked the Tigers’ Victor Reyes and Willi Castro to start his career.
“For sure, finding out a couple of days ago, sort of building up and everything, the nerves were definitely there,” said Stiever, who is known for having good control. “Trying to just stay focused and locked into my routine and mechanics, I wasn’t able to do that.”
Catcher James McCann throwing out Reyes stealing helped, and after allowing two singles and a run, Stiever struck out Daz Cameron to finish the inning and start a string of nine consecutive outs. That’s the excellent note he ended on.
Stiever got ahead in counts and threw his curve and slider for strikes, too, after the first.
“That’s how I pitch,” he said. “It just took me awhile to find that rhythm and location.”
With left-hander Dallas Keuchel missing a start and the other starters getting an extra day of rest going into the upcoming Twins series, Stiever was summoned from the Schaumburg training facility before the game. He was more than a little wild early, missing the strike zone by plenty on several pitches and throwing a curveball over McCann’s head.
After throwing 36 pitches in the first inning, he threw 12 in the second, 10 in the third and 15 (73 total) to get two outs in the fourth. He finished with three strikeouts.
A fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana in 2018 and rated No. 5 among Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, Stiever had a 4.74 ERA over 14 starts at low Class A Kannapolis in 2019, and after a promotion to advanced Class A Winston-Salem, he had a 2.15 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 71 innings covering 12 starts.
Bring on the Twins
The Sox finished 21-3 against the Pirates, Royals and Tigers. They are 2-4 against the Twins, who come to town for four games starting Monday.
“I think we have an advantage on them,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “You see our lineup from top to bottom, we’ve got some guys who can hit. And our defense obviously has been great. We have to continue to push, and it will take care of itself.”
Day off for Robert
Center fielder Luis Robert, 5-for-37 with 14 strikeouts in his last 10 games, did not play in favor of Jarrod Dyson. Hitting coach Frank Menechino said Robert is trying to swing his way out of a slump.
“These are the important lessons he has to learn where sometimes less is more,” Menechino said. “Go up there and see some pitches and prove to these guys you’re not going to swing at everything.”
This and that
Manager Rick Renteria said Keuchel, who missed his start Saturday with back spasms, is on track to face the Twins on Thursday.
† Righty Alex McRae was optioned to Schaumburg, and lefty Carlos Rodon was transferred to the 45-day injured list but hasn’t been ruled out to return before the end of the season.