Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield has waited his entire baseball life to finally live what happened on Wednesday night in the Bronx. And he left his Major League debut how any rookie would want: smiling.
Sheffield was called out of the bullpen in the top of the ninth to close out a 10-1 rout of the Red Sox. Being the Yankees' No. 1 prospect, he wanted to make a good first impression in his first game donning the pinstripes, and that included his run in between innings to warm up on the mound.
"My legs felt like jello," he told YES Network after the game. "The first thing I was thinking was, you know, don't trip running to the mound. Just don't trip. Once I got out there, I felt like when I got on the mound everything was just going to settle down a little bit. But the nerves and adrenaline was pumping. I'm glad I got to go out there and get my first one in."
Sheffield's night didn't start how he hoped, though. Trying to fight the expected nerves, he let up back-to-back singles to Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez. Then, after finally getting his first out on a pop up, he issued a walk to load the bases.
With Mookie Betts on deck -- a player he said he has crossed paths with being from the same area and seeing during offseason workouts -- Sheffield knew he needed to calm down. And so did his new teammates.
"Yeah, I was trying to breathe as much as I could trying to settle down," Sheffield explained. "Didi [Gregorius] was out there and he was telling me to slow down. Breathe, just breathe. That's what I just kept doing and I knew sooner than later I kept doing that I was going to make the right pitch."
He almost made the wrong pitch to Betts, who hooked a ball just foul that would have been a grand slam. But the right one will be the one he remembers, after a grounder to Gregorius at short started a clean 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
More importantly, it ended any threat to kill Sheffield's on-top-of-the-world mood he had since he walked into Yankee Stadium.
"It was crazy because I was getting ready to head to the dugout for another inning because I'm not used to closing the game like that. It was cool though. It was my first time closing a game. Feels incredible."
The Yankees obviously have high hopes for Sheffield, who threw to a 2.56 ERA over 20 games (15 starts) with the Triple-A RailRiders this season. He will certainly see more opportunities to prove his No. 1 prospect status down the road, but nothing will beat the feeling of his debut.
"Honestly I can't even describe it," he said. "There were so many emotions going through my head before the game and even when I was out there. So just a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves."