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A's Mazzaro masterful in debut

A's Mazzaro masterful in debut

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CHICAGO -- It would have been an exciting evening for the A's and their fans even if Vin Mazzaro hadn't done what he did in his Major League debut Tuesday.

What he did simply made a good story great.

Called up from Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the day to join the starting rotation, Mazzaro was the last of Oakland's highly touted trio of pitching prospects to hit the big stage -- a 22-year-old following Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, both 21.

Mazzaro's debut was the splashiest -- by a mile.

In scattering three hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings of a 5-0 victory over the White Sox in the second game of a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field, Mazzaro legitimized the fairly dramatic proclamation made by Oakland manager Bob Geren upon announcing Mazzaro's promotion.

"The future," Geren said, "is now."

The present includes four rookie starters -- Mazzaro, Anderson, Cahill and 24-year-old Josh Outman. Dallas Braden, 25, was the previous Oakland pitcher to start and win his first big league game, in 2007.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Mazzaro, who had about 20 family members in the stands from all over the country. "It doesn't get any better than that."

Not feeling so great were Mazzaro's eyes, still beet-red despite getting washed out in the trainer's room after he received a face full of foam during an on-field television interview.

"Shaving cream," he said. "Contact lenses."

Anyone could see, however, that Mazzaro fits right in with Oakland's green rotation.

"We were the youngest starting staff in the Majors at the start of the season, and now we're younger," said Outman, who made his debut as a reliever last September. "It's nice to see another young guy come up from the Minors and throw the ball that well."

"We don't really think about it like, 'We're the future,'" insisted Cahill, who gave up two runs over five innings in his debut. "But it's exciting to have so many young guys, and it's always nice to have another rookie on the team that you know and fell really comfortable with."

"It's kind of crazy the way it's all worked out," said Anderson, who gave up five runs over six innings in his debut. "Trevor and I were fortunate to make the team out of Spring Training and Vin didn't, but he went down and dealt at Sacramento, which is kind of what I expected him to do."

Any time a 22-year-old takes the big league mound for the first time, the only thing upon which you can count is that said youngster's stomach likely will feel like it's playing host to a hummingbird gang fight.

To that end, Mazzaro indeed wobbled through the first two innings Tuesday, allowing two hits and three walks while throwing 48 pitches.

"I couldn't see any physical jumpiness, but I'm sure his mind was racing," Geren said.

"I had a few nerves the first couple of innings," Mazzaro admitted. "A little excited."

But after allowing a leadoff single and a stolen base to Scott Podsednik in the first, Mazzaro picked him off second base with one out, wheeling to throw a strike to Adam Kennedy after Kennedy called for the ball.

"That," Geren said, "was impressive."

After a single by Jermaine Dye and walk to Jim Thome, Mazzaro got out of the inning by getting Paul Konerko on a fly ball to center. He made more tough pitches when he needed them in the second, stranding two runners and buying time before those nerves settled.

"Once I got a few outs, I started to get more comfortable," Mazzaro said.

It showed. Mazzaro faced the minimum 12 batters over the next four innings on 51 pitches. He was pulled with one out in the seventh, after a walk that followed Ryan Sweeney's wall-rattling catch on a deep drive to center by Konerko.

"This guy's got some of the best stuff," said White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen. "He's got good stuff, the ball moving a lot, throws big-time changeups and he threw strikes."

"We thought we had him on the ropes early on," added Chicago outfielder Dewayne Wise. "I'm pretty sure he was nervous. He threw a lot of balls the first couple of innings. But as the game went on, he settled down and just pitched a great game."

Mazzaro threw 105 pitches -- 60 for strikes despite walking four -- and struck out one before lefty Craig Breslow came on and got Wilson Betemit to bounce into a double play. Righty Brad Ziegler finished up with two innings of two-hit work with a walk.

"He kept us off balance," Podsednik said of Mazzaro. "He had good stuff. He was on. You can see why their organization was high on him and brought him up and gave him a shot."

A sacrifice fly by Jack Cust in the top of the first inning gave Mazzaro a lead before he stepped onto the mound, and Cust added a solo homer off Chicago starter Bartolo Colon in the fourth.

Holliday, who entered the night batting .358 (24-for-67) over his previous 20 games, gave Mazzaro more breathing room with a three-run double after Colon intentionally walked Cust to load the bases with two outs in the fifth. The inning started with an error by Betemit at third base, rendering all three of the runs unearned.

"That definitely calmed me down," Mazzaro said of the early run support. "It calms down any pitcher, and it allowed me to expand the zone and not try to be perfect."

Spoken like a grizzled vet, but from the mouth of a relative baby who merely played the part of savvy veteran for the night.

"It looked," Geren said, "like he's been here a long, long time."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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