Holdzkom takes unlikely path to MLB debut

Holdzkom takes unlikely path to MLB debut

ST. LOUIS -- In response to John Holdzkom's Major League debut Tuesday night, the official Twitter account of the Glenelg Tigers posted a picture of the 6-foot-7 right-hander winding up for them last year.

First of all, the Glenelg Tigers play in the South Australian Baseball League.

Second of all, in the image, a big-ole tree appears to be rising right out of the mound right behind Holdzkom, with more parked cars than spectators visible over his shoulder.

So this is the guy who entered in the eighth inning to strike out all three Cardinals batters he faced in a close 6-4 game. One of them was Kolten Wong, who the day before had belted a game-tying two-run home run off Gerrit Cole. Another was Matt Carpenter, who led the National League in hits last season.

If you missed it -- relax. There will be other opportunities to see the tall blond, who blends the almost-extinct palmball with a cutter and split-fingered fastball.

Holdzkom's retro pitch -- he calls it The Palmer -- enabled him to strike out 37 men in 27 2/3 innings between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis after the Bucs had signed him out of yet another Independent league -- United League Baseball -- on June 23.

"What you do in Triple-A doesn't always translate to the Major Leagues. It sure did last night," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "That had to be a special night for him. He's going to get the ball again, and we'll see where he can take it."

Sometimes, an undrafted pitcher will find his way to the big leagues. Very rarely, a pitcher signed out of Independent ball will reach the Majors.

But, make it to The Show to pitch in a tight game in a pennant race only 10 weeks after being on a sandlot? Never.

John made it for two Holdzkoms: His older brother, Lincoln, briefly pitched in the Pirates' system in 2009 at Altoona.

First number, last word

61: Unearned runs charged this season against Pirates pitchers. All last season, the Bucs allowed 44 unearned runs.

"This is not a tryout camp. We're not developing talent right now. We're trying to win ballgames. This isn't Little League; dad can't call and get you in the game." -- Hurdle, on players added to the expanded September roster sitting on the bench, waiting for their chance

Worth noting

Pedro Alvarez (sprained left foot) was available to hit off the bench, but still "is not able to play [in the field]," according to Hurdle.

Travis Snider (left hamstring), however, continued to progress and Hurdle gave him "a chance to be ready to play" in Chicago, where the Bucs will open a weekend series on Friday.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.