Jonathan Loaisiga's MLB debut was near perfect as the rookie threw five scoreless innings with six strikeouts, earning his first major league victory as the Yankees beat the Rays 5-0.
The postgame interviews went his way, too, as Rays manager Kevin Cash compared Loaisiga to Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. Loaisiga was taken aback when told of Cash's high praise.
"That's a big compliment right there," Loaisiga said, speaking through an interpreter. "Mariano is one of the best all time, a superstar of the sport. It's humbling for him to say something like that."
Loaisiga spent his time once he got back to his hotel to read all of the congratulatory messages from his native Nicaragua.
"It took me some time to fall asleep, processing everything that happened: getting to the big leagues, getting my first start," Loaisiga said. "They were very happy for me and so proud of me. They told me they really enjoyed watching me and telling me that I did a really good job."
Meanwhile, Aaron Boone wasn't interested in attaching Rivera's name to Loaisiga and creating unfair expectations.
"I'm not going to get into those comparisons," Boone said. "I thought he did really well. I thought he handled himself really well."
Before Friday night, Loaisiga had yet to pitch above double-A baseball. And he wasn't overly impressive at that level, either, with a 4.32 ERA in six starts in his double-A career. But Boone and the Yankees saw something in the pitcher.
"All in all, anytime he did walk a guy or in that fourth inning where he got into trouble, he made a really good pitch when he needed to," Boone said. "Even though I thought he tired a lot in the fifth, he was still able to have a clean inning there. I'm just really proud of his effort. I know he's really excited about it, seeing the smile on his face this morning."