Ex-Hog fitting in with Arizona

By: Todd Pearce
Published: Sunday, April 27, 2014
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger, center, hands the ball to manager Kirk Gibson, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger, center, hands the ball to manager Kirk Gibson, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Living roughly eight miles west of Wrigley Field until he was 10 years old, former Arkansas Razorbacks pitcher Mike Bolsinger said he grew up a Chicago Cubs fan.

Some 16 years later, in front of about 20 friends and family members, Bolsinger hit an RBI single and pitched into the seventh inning to earn his first major-league victory in just his second start as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 5-2 on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

“[I’m] speechless,” Bolsinger said. “I was born here. I’ve got friends I haven’t seen in 8 to 10 years here. It’s a pretty special moment.”

Bolsinger, who is 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA for the Diamondbacks, allowed 1 unearned run on 4 hits with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings and earned a celebratory beer shower from his teammates after the game.

“It was good to get the first win, but I think it was a lot better to get a big team win,” Bolsinger said.

Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson said Bolsinger’s performance was what the team needed.

“He set the tone for us,” Gibson said. “He threw the ball good, had better control of his breaking ball and spotted the ball in an out. I think he’s a lot more confident and has integrated in with his teammates. He came out and executed like he did in the minor leagues.”

Bolsinger, a 15th-round selection by Arizona in the 2010 draft, got off to a good start this season with a 2-0 record and a 1.42 ERA for Class AAA Reno before being promoted to the Diamondbacks on April 14.

“It was a complete surprise. I didn’t expect anything out of it,” Bolsinger said of going from Reno to Arizona. “I was just having fun pitching. I just told myself, ‘Whatever happens, happens,’ and it happened.”

Bolsinger made his major-league debut April 14, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks in 3 innings of relief in a 7-3 loss to the New York Mets. With his first start looming five days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bolsinger was just happy to get some work in.

“If I went into the start at Dodger Stadium, it would have been 10 days off since the last time I pitched,” Bolsinger said. “I’ve had this routine down, and I think it’s big to get this out of the way, to go out there and get the nerves out and go out there for the next one and go after it.”

Bolsinger said his family and friends were nothing but positive after his relief appearance. He saw pictures and videos of friends at a sports bar watching him pitch.

“That’s the special part, to see them react. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you see they’re proud of you,” Bolsinger said.

The good feelings continued through the first four innings of his start in Los Angeles, as he struck out five and the Diamondbacks gave him a 4-0 lead, but the Dodgers came back in the fourth and fifth innings to win 8-6. He allowed 7 runs, 6 earned, on 7 hits with 1 walk in 4 innings and took the loss.

“I felt good in the first four innings, but the fifth inning kind of got away from us,” Bolsinger said. “One hit became two, two became three. That’s just baseball. I was happy with how I held everything together.”

Bolsinger said he learned a lot from his start in Los Angeles, particularly learning how to recognize a batter’s tendencies.

“You have to go out with a game plan,” Bolsinger said. “It’s never really been my game to know how to pitch before I go out. But if you learn how an inside fastball can be effective on a certain righty or lefty, that makes a big difference.”

Bolsinger can also draw on the experience of former Razorbacks teammate Drew Smyly, who has started and come out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers this season.

“He and I are close friends and we talk quite a bit,” Bolsinger said. “He called after the start in L.A. I think he pitched the same day because all we talked about was what we could have done better. It’s nice to have a good friend in a situation like that.” If he continues to pitch as well as he did Thursday, Bolsinger said he should be in Arizona for quite a while.

“If I pitch well, I think that puts me in the best position to stay here,” Bolsinger said. “All I can do is pitch well and put myself in the best possible spot.”

Sports, Pages 29 on 04/27/2014

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