‘She’s always with me’: Miami Marlins rookie pitcher pays tribute to mom in MLB debut

·4 min read

Luis Madero finished throwing his warmup pitches before the bottom of the sixth inning Monday and took a lap around the mound at Chase Field. The next pitch he threw would count. The next pitch he threw would complete a lifelong dream. The next pitch he threw would officially make him a Major League Baseball player.

Before he threw that pitch, a 90.2 mph four-seam fastball low and away to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed, Madero adjusted his black Miami Marlins cap, squatted down and wrote a simple message on the back of the pitcher’s mound.

“Mom” with a heart next to it.

Madero’s mom, Jacqueline del Carmen Sanabria Madero, was his biggest supporter during the start of his baseball career. She died unexpectedly of a heart attack on April 21, 2019. It was one of the toughest moments of his life, one that he said almost made him quit baseball.

“I feel like she’s always with me,” Madero, 24, said. “It’s something I always carry with me in my heart.”

That was one layer of the flooding of emotions that overtook Madero the past two days. He was called up to the Marlins’ active roster on Sunday, Mother’s Day. He made his debut Monday, his sister’s birthday. The debut came against the Diamondbacks, the team that signed him to a $160,000 signing bonus at 16 years old as an international free agent out of Venezuela in July 2013.

“I was expecting to be on that side of the dugout,” Madero said. “Now, I’m going to be on the [visitor’s] side.”

The players and coaches in that visitor’s dugout on Monday walked away pleased with his performance. Madero threw two shutout innings in his MLB debut, working around a leadoff walk in the sixth and a two-out triple in the seventh to get his six outs in the Marlins’ 5-2 loss.

He threw 35 pitches in the debut and showcased a little bit of everything in his arsenal.

Fourteen fastballs, topping out at 90.7 mph.

Eight sliders, averaging 82.2 mph and topping out at 86.9 mph.

Eight curveballs, averaging 80.4 mph.

Five changeups, averaging 87.9 mph.

“Pretty good, right?” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I felt like he changed his speeds. That’s kind of the guy he is. He was, for the most part, in the zone and a little unpredictable. He gave us two good innings there to keep the game in check.”

Madero added: “I got to the mound, and I was realizing my dream was coming true. Looking around and everything was just really good. I was very anxious, making sure everything came out perfect with all my pitches. All the results came out right. I was very happy to just to fulfill my dreams.”

The Marlins are Madero’s fourth MLB organization. He never got above rookie ball in four seasons with the Diamondbacks, who traded him to the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. He stayed with the Angels through the 2019 season, becoming a Class A Midwest League midseason All-Star with the Burlington Bees in 2018. He reached Class A Advanced by the end of the 2018 season and played in Double A in 2019 after being added to the Angels’ 40-man roster.

The Angels designated him for assignment after the 2019 season. The San Francisco Giants claimed him off waivers and included him as part of their 60-man player pool for the COVID-19-shorted 2020 season. He spent the entire season at the Giants’ alternate training site. He elected free agency after the 2020 season and signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training with the Marlins in November.

He went to the alternate site following spring training and then threw 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball in his lone appearance with the Triple A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp before getting called up. The Marlins are using him as a long reliever out of the bullpen.

“The biggest thing was that he looked like a strike-thrower, a guy who was billed as a strike-thrower coming over, a guy that had a good slider, a good little mix of pitches and doesn’t really scare,” Mattingly said. “He didn’t look like a guy that was overwhelmed by being in camp or anything else, and really that’s what we looked at. You don’t want to bring a guy up that’s not going to throw the ball over the plate. That’s one of the things with Luis we thought we would get if we needed him.”

Madero’s message to Mattingly pregame?

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “Any time you need me, I’ll be there.”

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