The White Sox got a shot in the arm from an unexpected source Sunday afternoon: A 29-year-old rookie making his major league debut.
Scott Carroll pitched with a level of poise and efficiency the White Sox desperately needed, allowing two runs (one earned) over 7 1/3 innings as the White Sox beat Tampa Bay, 9-2. Carroll scattered six hits and only walked two while tormenting the Rays with a sinker that generated 13 ground ball outs and three double plays.
For the first time since April 19, the White Sox only used two pitchers -- Carroll and Daniel Webb -- giving Robin Ventura the opportunity to rest a bullpen that's struggled along with the team's starting pitchers recently.
"The way we've had to use our bullpen the last five days, him coming in and getting to where he was is big for us," Ventura said. "It's a big shot in the arm. He'll get another opportunity."
The spotlight wasn't too big for Carroll, who pitched eight seasons in the minor leagues and underwent Tommy John surgery before his call-up to the White Sox Sunday. But he impressed the White Sox enough with a 1.57 ERA through four starts with Triple-A Charlotte, and with the team stretching its pitching depth Carroll had an opportunity.
Facing former AL Cy Young winner David Price on Sunday, Carroll seized that opportunity. He walked off the field to a standing ovation from the crowd of 17,313, which included his parents and a number of friends and family.
"I put in all the hard work and just effort and stuff and to get to this level and succeed like I did, it was unbelievable," Carroll said. "I've seen it so many times on TV and on movies and stuff, but to actually experience it and have that feeling myself, it was incredible."
But Carroll's outing was more than a feel-good story for the White Sox. He threw strikes -- 57 in 100 pitches -- and worked quickly. He kept the White Sox defense moving with all those ground balls, and outside of Dayan Viciedo's misplay of a fly ball in right (which led to Tampa Bay scoring a run), the guys behind him made every play.
Thanks to an offensive barrage in the sixth and seventh innings, Carroll earned the win in his debut. Tampa Bay committed four errors and Jose Abreu belted a two-run homer in a five-run sixth, then Abreu had a two-run single in a four-run seventh.
That was more than enough support for Carroll, who said he had to choke back a few tears as he exited the game to the roaring ovation in the eighth. It was a long journey for Carroll to get to this point, but from a practical standpoint, his start was exactly what the White Sox needed.
Before the game, Ventura said the White Sox were going "day-to-day" with the pitching staff, which could benefit from a high chance of precipitation and a possible rainout Monday night. But what Carroll did Sunday did wonders for the White Sox, too.
"It’s special," manager Robin Ventura said. "You have a guy that gets his first opportunity in the big leagues and takes advantage of it. At 29, being up there it’s special. He was throwing strikes, ground balls. Even when guys got on, he had a sinker that you can use to get double plays and get out of innings.
"He showed everybody what it’s like when you throw strikes."