A's Witasick is 1st from UMBC to pitch in majors

July 12, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Less than a year removed from Single-A, Jay Witasick sat in the Oakland Athletics bullpen . . . thinking.

For two games, Witasick anticipated the call. It never came.

His worries finally ended when he was inserted in the eighth inning Sunday, the last day before the All-Star break. Witasick, a 1990 graduate of C. Milton Wright, became the first player from UMBC to pitch in the major leagues.

"All I wanted was my first major-league pitch to be a strike," said Witasick from his Oakland hotel room. "It's funny, but you think about those things sitting out there. When I went out there, I didn't care if it was a first-pitch home run, just as long as it was a strike."

Witasick's first pitch was a strike, and it didn't result in a homer. In fact, he pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings, including a strikeout of J. T. Snow.

But his path to the majors wasn't that smooth. A second-round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1993, Witasick used his high-80s fastball and hard slider to strike out 354 batters in 317 2/3 innings over three years at Single-A.

Witasick, 23, broke into Double-A for the final month last season and went 2-3 with a 5.87 ERA in six starts. In the off-season, he was a part of a four-player deal with Oakland that sent Todd Stottlemyre to St. Louis.

The change of organizations suited Witasick, who always wanted to pitch in the American League. Witasick, who never mastered bunting, feared batting in the majors and wanted a chance to pitch in Camden Yards.

He recorded an 0-2 record with a 2.32 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 24 walks this season as a middle reliever for Oakland's Double-A affiliate in Huntsville, Ala., before being called up last Friday.

Witasick started six Double-A games and compiled four saves in 16 relief appearances. Opponents batted .196 against him.

"I was kind of shocked," said Witasick of the promotion. "I guess Double-A and Triple-A are similar. Now getting here and knowing what is being asked of me at this level, I think I can handle it."

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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