Pryor impressive in big league debut

Pryor impressive in big league debut

CHICAGO -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge had said he wanted to find a "soft landing" for Stephen Pryor's Major League debut, looking for a low-stress situation to break in the 23-year-old rookie reliever.

Instead, with the Mariners' bullpen spread a little thin, Pryor got the call Saturday with two on, two outs and the Mariners trailing 7-5 in the seventh inning against the White Sox. And his first batter?

None other than veteran slugger Paul Konerko, sporting a .376 batting average and wielding one of the hottest bats in baseball over the past month.

First pitch? A sizzling 100-mph fastball that Konerko took for a strike. Three fastballs later -- at 99, 99 and 98 -- the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Pryor blew another 100-mph heater past Konerko for strike three.

"It was real cool, I guess, throwing to him for my first guy," Pryor said. "He's an MLB All-Star, but I was just able to really not focus on the name as much as it just being another player, and try to pound the strike zone and challenge him and get ahead with the fastball."

Pryor struck out Alex Rios to start off the next inning, as well, and got A.J. Pierzynzski on a grounder to first on a nice defensive play by Justin Smoak before giving up his first hit -- a long home run by Dayan Viciedo.

Viciedo, a 23-year-old Cuban who has been mashing for the White Sox, blasted a 2-2 slider into the right-field seats. Pryor then threw five straight fastballs to Alexei Ramirez, including another 100-mph offering, before inducing him into an inning-ending groundout.

Pryor said he'd never run into Viciedo coming up through the Minors, but knew the 5-11, 240-pounder had power and 11 home runs already this season.

"I threw a lot of sliders trying to stay away from him," said Pryor. "I got one up and he got hold of it, so that was a good learning experience for me, as well. I just take my knocks and learn from them and try to get better for the next one."

All-in-all, it was quite a debut for Pryor, whose family flew in from Tennessee for the three-game series. Pryor's wife brought their two children in from Seattle, as well. Despite the home run by Viciedo, it was a pretty impressive debut.

"He was fantastic in that type of situation and that type of game," said Wedge. "He really stepped up. For that to be his first outing in that type of setting in this atmosphere says a lot about the young man."