By: Brian Frank
There’s nothing quite like a top prospect's major-league debut. Gabriel Moreno recently spoke with The Herd Chronicles about his big day – when he took the field for the first time as a major-league player.
Moreno has been extremely impressive this season for the Bisons – both at the plate and behind it. He’s slashing .306/.376/.405 in 46 games for the Herd and has thrown out 48 percent of would-be base stealers.
The young catcher’s most memorable moment this season came when the Blue Jays called him up and he took the field in a big-league uniform at Detroit’s Comerica Park on June 11.
Moreno in the Sahlen Field bullpen. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
“I felt nervous for a couple moments but during the game I was good,” he said. “I mean I was a little nervous when I was stretching in the bullpen and when I caught the first pitch.”
Moreno caught Kevin Gausman in his debut. Gausman is known for throwing one of the game’s best splitters.
“He has really good stuff,” Moreno said when asked if Gausman was tough to catch due to his electric stuff. “I think I did a good job with him. He did a really good job that day and I feel comfortable with him.”
It was also the first time the young catcher used PitchCom to call pitches during a game rather than signaling the pitch with his fingers.
“Yeah, it was the first time I used that,” he said. “My first day was a little confusing but the next day during the game it worked really good.”
Having his first game come in Detroit allowed Moreno to play against one of his childhood heroes – fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera.
“That was great to have my debut with Miggy,” Moreno said. “Miggy is a legend in Venezuela – my hero. That was really good for me.”
It was the first time Moreno had ever seen Cabrera. He even got the chance to interact with the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“We were talking during the game, before he got in the batter’s box,” Moreno remembered. “He said a couple words about the game. That made me feel great.”
After a pair of groundouts and a strikeout, Moreno came to bat in the ninth inning to face Tigers fire-balling reliever Gregory Soto. After Soto struck out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on a 98 mph fastball and Bradley Zimmer on a 100 mph heater, Moreno stepped to the plate.
“In that at-bat I was thinking don’t think too much, you know what to do,” he said. “I was ready for one pitch. I know he throws a really good fastball and I was waiting for that pitch. He did a slide step and I was ready for it and I just hit the ball up the middle. That was my first hit in the big leagues so it felt pretty good. I was so happy in that moment ”
Moreno eventually came around to score the Blue Jays’ only run of the afternoon on a George Springer single in Toronto’s 3-1 loss.
Moreno's first major-league hit.
Moreno credited his coaches and teammates for helping him have a successful first stint in the majors.
“All of my teammates helped me and gave me confidence and helped me fit in in the clubhouse,” he said. “So nothing crazy really surprised me.”
Moreno ended up playing in 18 games for the Blue Jays, going 16-for-58 (.276) and throwing out 36 percent of runners attempting to steal. He returned to Buffalo on July 12 when Danny Jansen returned from the disabled list.
The hype for the twenty-two-year-old prospect has only grown since his return to the Queen City. Baseball America recently released its updated prospect ratings and had Moreno ranked as the number one prospect in all of baseball.
“That’s amazing to be number one,” he said. “I’m really happy about that because of all the work I put in. I just need to keep doing my work.”
He made clear that the goal was never to be rated the number one prospect or to play a handful of games in the majors.
“The goal is to stay in the big leagues and help the team,” he said. “That’s what I want. So I need to work hard on everything – catching, throwing, running the bases, hitting – everything.”
Moreno is hitting .306 for the Herd this season. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles