Griffin Canning made his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays in front of an announced crowd of 38,797 at Angel Stadium. 300 of those fans were from South Orange County where Canning grew up.
Canning played for Santa Margarita High and even played against Joey Gallo’s Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School team. Joey Gallo was the Texas Rangers second-round draft pick and now a regular home run power hitter in the Rangers lineup. Canning was a sophomore when Gallo, a senior, hit a home run off of him. But he didn’t let that get to him.
“He pitches big on big stages,” said Dave Bacani, who led Santa Margarita’s baseball team from 2009 to 2017. “This is obviously the biggest stage he’s pitched on and he’s doing well so far. We’re proud of him.”
“I just think he had that mental makeup of a professional baseball player,” said Ryan Torrey, one of Canning’s high school pitching coaches. “He showed up every single day with task in mind and just accomplished it, no matter what adversity or however hard the workout was. He just had that professional mentality that you can’t teach.”
Canning retired the first 10 batters before getting into trouble in the 4th inning. After Eric Sogard grounded out, Freddy Galvis singled to right and then Randal Grichuk singled to center. Since this was his first time in trouble during the game, pitching coach Doug White went to talk to him to get him to relax. Canning then walked Justin Smoak on five pitches prompting White to make one more visit. Next, he threw a wild pitch scoring Freddy Galvis while at the same time advancing Randal Grichuk to third base and Justin Smoak to second base.
But then you saw the potential of a future ace in the making. Canning got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground out to short causing Grichuk to stay at third, and after that he struck out Rowdy Tellez swinging while limiting the damage to just one run.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t duplicate the same results in the 5th inning. Brandon Drury led off the inning by hitting a solo homer to cut the Angels lead to 3-2. Next, Canning gave up a double to Teoscar Hernandez causing pitching coach Doug White to come out. Canning stayed in the game, but Luke Maile hit a hard line drive to Kole Calhoun allowing Hernandez to advance to third with only one out and alerting Angels manager Brad Ausmus to take him out of the game. Canning had thrown 82 pitches up to that point and it wasn’t just the 82 pitches. Not only was the pitch count getting high, but Ausmus had to take into account his major league debut adrenaline running, which probably made him more tense and exhausted.
Cam Bedrosian replaced Griffin Canning and the Blue Jays pinch hit Billy McKinney for Eric Sogard. McKinney grounded out to short which brought Hernandez home, closing the book on Canning.
Final line: 4.1 innings, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts.
“He was for the most part unflappable out there from pitch one,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He was very comfortable with his surroundings. I think he feels like he’s a big league player. For some players it takes time to get comfortable in this environment and other guys feel like he belongs right away. I think he should — and does — feel like he belongs.”
After the game, Mike Trout saw a lot of potential in Canning:
“He’s obviously got a lot of heart,” Mike Trout said. “Obviously in the spring I got to see him, got to face him. He had good stuff. I knew it facing him in the spring, but to see it in person, it’s pretty impressive. His ceiling is going to be unbelievable. He was out there, and he looked like he’s been up here for a while.”
What did his battery partner say about his performance?
“He bounced some balls in the bullpen,” said Jonathan Lucroy, the Angels everyday catcher. “I could tell he was pumped up. He was out there really early. He was out there earlier than me, which never happens. I knew he was pumped up. I talked to him, calmed him down, told him to breathe. The number one thing that gets you at this level is guys get excited. They overthrow. He did that a little tonight, but it’s normal.”
But Lucroy was extremely impressed:
“Being blunt and honest, that’s probably one of the best debuts I’ve ever caught. The kid’s got a bright future.”
Canning’s fastball and pitch selection show that he could easily be a future ace and a very important piece to the Angels future playoff hopes. He was confident despite pitching in front of his family, didn’t take too long between pitches, and when he got into trouble in the 4th, he found a way out of it. He got ahead of many batters with a majority of first ball strikes to begin the game. Just to get into the 5th inning on his major league debut raised a lot of eyebrows and he impressed Ausmus so much that he will stay in the rotation for now.
There’s a reason to be excited because he made a great first impression causing the Halos organization and their fans believe that he is indeed the real deal.
Featured Image: Griffin Canning/ Halohangout.com