A long journey leads to an unlikely MLB debut. Plus more Marlins minor-league notes

Courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos
·5 min read

A.J. Ladwig’s story is one of perseverance.

Eight-plus years toiling in the minor leagues after being drafted in the 11th round by the Detroit Tigers.

Two years without pitching in a live game in the middle of that run after undergoing Tommy John surgery and dealing with a lost 2020 minor-league season due to the pandemic.

Being released by the Tigers, the only organization he ever played for, in May before the Marlins signed him to a minor-league deal a week later.

It made what happened Saturday all the more surreal, all the more worthwhile.

The 29-year-old Ladwig made his MLB debut that Saturday night, throwing 3 1/3 innings for the Marlins in second game of their doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. He was the 10th player to make his MLB debut with the Marlins this season.

His debut began with a nine-pitch scoreless fourth inning, working around a one-out single with a inning-ending double play. It was after that inning that the moment sunk in.

“I was sitting in the dugout,” Ladwig said, “and just taking it all in.”

He ran into trouble after that, charged with four earned runs — three of which came on a pair of home runs — over his final 2 1/3 innings.

“It was asking a lot of him,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Ladwig’s extended time on the mound against the Braves. “He’s a guy with multiple pitches. He’s a strike-thrower, pitchability [pitcher]. ... Congratulations to him for getting here and fighting his way to the big leagues.”

His time in the big leagues was short-lived, though. The Marlins designated Ladwig for assignment Sunday to clear space on their 40-man roster for another pair of pitchers who they called up in Andrew Nardi and Parker Bugg.

Another wild Pensacola walk-off

The Double A Pensacola Blue Wahoos have had their share of wild victories this season. This included a walk-off win in early June when four consecutive hit-by-pitches capped a three-run rally in the ninth inning.

They added another one on Sunday with their 13-12, 12-inning walk-off win over the Birmingham Barons for the Blue Wahoos’ ninth walk-off win of the season.

Pensacola scored four runs in the bottom of the inning, all of which came against a position player in Barons second baseman JJ Muno with no pitchers still available at the end of the six-game series.

Like in the majors, the minor leagues start extra innings with a runner on second. Each of Pensacola’s first four batters reached base — catcher Jan Mercado with a single to left, shortstop Nasim Nunez with a walk, second baseman Jose Devers with an RBI single and first baseman Norel Gonzalez with a two-RBI single to left — and combined to drive in three runs to tie the game at 12-12.

Bubba Hollins flew out to right before Demetrius Sims was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. J.D. Orr hit into a fielder’s choice with the Barons throwing out the lead runner at home for the second out. Pensacola won when Birmingham shortstop Moises Castillo’s throwing error allowed Davis Bradshaw to reach first base and Gonzalez to score.

Another notable from that game: Nunez, the Marlins’ No. 18 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, set the Blue Wahoos’ single-game record with five runs scored ... without logging a hit. He went 0 for 2 with four walks and a hit-by-pitch. Nunez also stole three bases on Sunday, bringing his season total to a staggering 54 steals on 67 attempts.

2022 draft pick updates

First-round pick Jacob Berry is hitting .233 (10 for 43) with seven RBI and four runs scored through his first 11 games with Single A Jupiter. All 10 of his hits have been singles. He has also drawn two walks and struck out just four times in 49 plate appearances with the Hammerheads.

13th-round pick Chase Luttrell and 14th-round pick Torin Montgomery each hit their first home run with Single A Jupiter. Montgomery is hitting .316 so far through 16 games (four with the Marlins’ rookie-level FCL affiliate, 12 with Jupiter). Luttrell is hitting .214 over 12 games (one with the FCL Marlins, 11 with Jupiter).

Seventh-round pick Kyle Crigger has not allowed an earned run over his first four relief appearances for Single A Jupiter, working around three hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. He recorded his first save on Sunday.

This and that

Infielder Yiddi Cappe, ranked as Miami’s No. 13 overall prospect, continues his dominant run this season. He hit .385 (10 for 26) last week with Single A Jupiter with an inside-the-park home run, three doubles, four RBI and five runs scored. The 19-year-old, who was Miami’s top signing in the 2021 international free agent cycle, is hitting .329 with six extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple and one home run) for an .808 on-base-plus-slugging mark in his first 19 games with the Hammerheads.

Right-handed pitcher Zach McCambley, Miami’s No. 15 overall prospect, tossed his fifth quality start of the season for Double A Pensacola on Friday when he allowed just one run over six innings while striking out 10. McCambley has pitched at least five innings while allowing three earned runs or fewer in four of his past six starts.