ANAHEIM, Calif. — Between rounds, Reid Detmers sat quietly in the dugout, well aware that he was getting closer and closer to a piece of history that just hours before would have seemed unthinkable.
No one spoke to him and he spoke to no one. His place in the canoe of the Angels was his and only his. And hundreds of miles away in Chatham, Illinois, Reid’s parents, Kris and Erica Detmers, did the same. They watched the game from home, without moving, without speaking. They knew what was going on, but did not talk about the story for fear of bewitching her.
Their anticipation mirrored that of their son. Then, when the Rays’ Yandy Díaz hit a grounder at shortstop and the non-hitter was insured on Detmers’ 11th career start, their celebrations were exactly the same.
Erica and Reid’s younger brother Kris Parker jumped up, screamed, cried and hugged. In Anaheim, Detmers was mobbed off the mound, the normally calm rookie topped by a moment that has happened only 12 times in Angels history.
“It’s just something I’ve dreamed of since I was little,” Detmers said after the 12-0 win. “I didn’t think it would ever happen. I do not even know. I probably won’t even remember tomorrow.
The feat is amazing on its own but even more special in its full context. Detmers had never launched a full game – at any level. The southpaw is only 22 after all. He finished six innings with the Angels last year and, until Tuesday’s masterpiece, five this season.
Collecting just two strikeouts, however, he remained effective all night, requiring 108 pitches in all. He walked a batter in the sixth, ruining his bet for perfection. Otherwise, he was just that.
“He had a much better presence on the mound tonight,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He just looked and felt the role tonight. Bully for him. It is potentially a life changing event.
Rewind the tape around six hours, and Maddon can be heard before the game saying he didn’t think Detmers had executed his game plan the way he wanted so far this season. The manager was even evasive when asked about Detmers’ position in the big league rotation ahead of the game.
“Honestly, I don’t know that answer, we have to assess start by start,” Maddon said. “We think a lot about this guy. Let’s see what happens. We tried to add some little wrinkles, we’ll see if he can actually pull it off.
It’s not a reflection of Maddon’s mistake, but rather the 180 degree turn of the season and Detmers’ career into one magical night.
And about those wrinkles. Detmers threw a more efficient change and used his fastball more to the inside part of the plate. Kris Detmers said he enjoys calling his son’s locations from the couch at home. He will often cry out for change, knowing this is important ground for Reid to unlock his potential. He had thrown that change just 5.1% of the time this season. On Tuesday, it rose to 22%. He generated five swing-and-misses. It was a difference maker.
“He didn’t really have to rely on his change that much. Mostly fastball, curveball,” said Kris Detmers, a former professional baseball player. “It’s just a pitch he has to throw to get the batters out of his fastball.”
This game had it all. Mike Trout hit two homers. Shohei Ohtani received his 2021 AL MVP Award pregame. Anthony Rendon hit left-handed for the first time in his career – and hit a home run, against Rays position player Brett Phillips no less.
That, however, was just noise. Footnotes on a night that belonged to Detmers. Even though Rendon was questioned after the game on his home run, he claimed he didn’t hear the question. Instead, he talked about Detmers.
“It’s amazing. We were just talking about it in the training room,” Rendon said. “Some of the guys were like, ‘What were you doing at 22? If you just look at the way he takes care of his business, he just keeps his cool. I think that’s what’s great and unique about watching him, being so young.
The only hairy moments of the night came in the top of the sixth when Detmers walked Taylor Walls on a curveball just over the area to board their first base runner. The next batter, Vidal Bruján, doubled down one that forced Rendon into a leaping catch. But Jared Walsh helped turn a shrewd double play to finish the round unscathed.
It was also Walsh who missed a grounded Phillips in the seventh inning, leading to several tense seconds as the official scorer considered the play. . When the scoreboard displayed an error, the crowd erupted.
“I literally knew. Everyone knew (it was a mistake). I was just like, ‘Yes, give me that error baby,'” Walsh said, clapping as he mimicked the post-game moment.
The Angels have long struggled to draft and develop their own pitching talent, and Detmers, taken 10th overall by the club in 2020, could help change that narrative. On Tuesday night, his Louisville coach Dan McDonnell recalled regionals from the 2019 NCAA tournament. Detmers had thrown 100 shots on Saturday. But there was a win-win match two days later. Detmers approached McDonnell and told him he would pitch.
“’I’m fine today. I’m ready to pitch. We don’t lose,” McDonnell recalled saying that day. This is the type of pitcher the Angels signed. That’s why they signed it. And that’s what he gave them that night, at the highest level.
The finesse southpaw with a strong arm quickly made his way to the majors. After a brief pit stop in Triple A, he was in Anaheim last July. It was always going to be a work in progress. This is what the first 10 starts of his MLB career looked like. He struggled with efficiency on the pitch. He was visibly angry coming out of his last start and open about the things he needed to work on.
“I kind of had it in my head coming onto the pitch that I was going to change a few things,” Detmers said. “I stuck to it, and it worked.”
Usually before his debut, Detmers can be seen on the couch in the clubhouse. Sometimes he will have a hood on top of his head. It is mostly silent. He’s relaxing, yes, but he’s also locked in, mentally reviewing his game plan.
That wasn’t the case with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning. He threw a ball to tie the score at 2-2, and Chad Wallach sent it back to him. Detmers threw his glove to catch it, seeming to exhale heavily.
After the match, he admitted that was when he felt the most nervous. He was shaking.
But the next pitch was jubilation. Jubilation for himself. Jubilation for the Angels, a team that invested in Detmers to be the pitcher they saw that night. Jubilation for the Louisville baseball program which watched Detmers after returning from a game against Indiana.
And above all, the jubilation for his family back home who lived every moment with Detmers in the same way as he did all night.
“It’s not really understood yet,” said Erica Detmers. “There are times when he hasn’t really sunk into the fact that he’s in the big leagues. Because he’s still our son. He’s only 22. It seems so surreal.
“But it’s real.”
(Top photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today)
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