Marlins’ Brian Moran talks MLB debut, first win
Brian Moran’s trot to the mound from the bullpen at PNC Park on Thursday was quick, quicker than he thought it would be as he prepared to make his Major League debut for the Miami Marlins.
His first out was quick, too. Moran needed just one pitch to . induce a groundout against Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds.
And then, everything slowed down. A familiar face — a familial face — stepped into the batter’s box.
Moran’s second opponent: None other than his younger brother, Colin Moran.
It was the first time they faced each other in a professional setting.
In the end, it was older brother Brian who came out on top, striking out Colin looking on a 71.7 mph slider as part of a scoreless fourth inning.
And with that, Brian and Colin Moran became the first siblings in MLB history to face each other in a pitcher-batter scenario with one of the brothers making his debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
They’re the seventh set of siblings overall to be on opposing teams when one brother is making his debut.
Even better for Moran: The Marlins offense rallied for four runs immediately after he left the mound, held on for a 10-7 win and gave the rookie pitcher his first win in his debut. He’s the fourth pitcher in Marlins history to enter the game as a reliever and record a win in his first career Major League appearance.
“It all working out that way was unbelievable,” Moran said. “... It fell into that storybook situation that you can’t draw up.”
Especially when you consider his path to get to Thursday.
Moran’s one inning on the mound — his 15 pitches, his strikeout, his win — served as the culmination of a 10-plus-year journey of frustrations, patience and waiting for an opportunity to showcase itself.
The Seattle Mariners selected him out of the University of North Carolina in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Moran spent the next four seasons in the Mariners’ minor-league organization before a whirlwind of change unfolded.
▪ The Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12, 2013, before promptly trading him to the Los Angeles Angels.
▪ Four months later, Moran underwent Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for the 2014 season. The Angels then returned Moran to the Mariners on Oct. 30, 2014.
▪ The Cleveland Indians then selected him in the Rule 5 Draft after the 2015 season only to release him before the start of the 2016 season.
▪ Moran then signed a deal with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Independent Atlantic League on April 7, 2016, and played there for four months before signing a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves in August 2016.
▪ The Baltimore Orioles organization was his next stop, with the O’s selecting him in the minor-league portion of the 2016 Rule 5 draft. He once again didn’t catch on, so he took up a second stint with the Bluefish for the 2017 season before the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal on July 14, 2017.
▪ The Dodgers released Moran one year later, and he spent the second half of the 2018 season in the Colorado Rockies organization before electing free agency.
“He’s such a hard worker,” his mom, Diane, said during an in-game interview with Fox Sports Florida. “He persevered through injury, through releases, through independent ball. Everything that he’s gone through to be able to get that call up is amazing and it just shows you what the beauty of baseball really does. It’s amazing.”
That brought him to the Marlins. He signed a minor-league deal on Dec. 3, 2018, and quickly impressed in his lone season in the organization. Moran struck out 77 batters and held opponents to a .207 batting average over 60 innings with the Triple A New Orleans Baby Cakes.
He was nearly untouchable against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .086 batting average and striking them out out 43.8 percent of the time (32 of 73).
That brought him to his first chance to step on the mound as a big leaguer. That brought him to Thursday.
“There’s a certain element of it being meant to be or whatever you want to call it,” Moran said. “It’s been everything and more.”
Moran knew the scenario could unfold this way. The Marlins called up the 30-year-old left-handed pitcher on Tuesday ahead of their three-game road series against the Pirates.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly told him if the game played out right, if the situation arose, the Moran-Moran matchup would happen.
After two days of waiting — which Moran admitted is “never good” — possibility became reality in the fourth inning Thursday.
The Marlins trailed 5-2 heading into the fourth. Mattingly pinch-hit for Elieser Hernandez in the top of the inning after the starter gave up five runs in a rough first inning.
The Pirates had a string of four hitters who were either lefties or switch hitters due up to hit in the home half of the . inning — Colin Moran second among that group.
“It was just the right spot in the game,” Mattingly said. “It worked out.”
The quick out against Reynolds calmed Moran’s nerves. When Colin Moran — a former Marlins’ first-round pick — stepped up to the plate, there was no holding back.
It brought back recollections of their days playing wiffle ball in the backyard, which was the last time they had faced each other before Thursday.
“It was harsh. It was ugly,” mom Diane said of the backyard battles. “It was very intense between the two of them.”
Their first big-league meeting was no different.
A seven-pitch battle ensued.
Moran fell behind 0-2 after a pair of change-ups missed the strike zone. Colin Moran fouled off a curveball and then took a slider inside to go ahead 3-1 in the count.
“It was a wild moment,” Bill Moran, their dad, said on the television broadcast. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Colin Moran fouled off a second slider, this one high in the zone, to bring the count full. Moran had his little brother where he wanted him.
The plan: A third slider, hopefully dropping barely inside the strikezone. It’s an effective pitch for him.
But if it missed, he ran the possibility of looking like he was avoiding the battle.
“High-risk, high-reward,” Moran said.
It paid off. The slider sat just inside the strike zone. Called Strike 3.
“I can’t dream up a cooler way to get your first strikeout,” Moran said.
Little brother could only look back and smile as he walked back to the dugout.
“He’s been my inspiration my whole life,” Colin told reporters after the game. “He’s never given up. That’s kind of been the theme of his career. I would’ve given up, probably. A lesser man would have given up with the road he’s had to go through.”
He’s not sure what he plans to do with the ball he used to strike out his brother just yet.
But Moran does have an idea or two about conservation starters the next time the family is together for the holidays.
“I don’t think either of us is one to rub it in,” Moran said, “but I’m sure I’ll mention it once or twice before then.”
It’s a debut he won’t forget any time soon.
“It was worth the wait,” Moran said, “because that was about as cool as it gets.”