LOS ANGELES -- The parade of impressive Dodgers rookie starters continued Sunday with the Major League debut of Jose De Leon, who delivered as an organization's top pitching prospect should.
He was the winner in a 7-4 decision over the Padres, the four runs he allowed in six innings overshadowed by nine strikeouts and no walks. Only two Dodgers have struck out more in their debut (Pedro Astacio and Kaz Ishii with 10 each) and since 1913 only four other pitchers in the Majors struck out at least nine with no walks in their first game.
"The linescore doesn't speak to how Jose pitched today," said manager Dave Roberts. "For a young kid to make his debut in this environment says a lot about Jose and how much we've seen him grow, from what I hear. Just a credit to our development, to have guys like that. I think in the least seven days, we've had seven starters. These kids are coming in and contributing. I can't speak to what Jose did today, can't say enough."
Roberts has been piecing together his starting rotation all season, but De Leon, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, is just one reason the future looks bright, as well as the present. In the heat of a pennant race, the Dodgers just began a stretch of four consecutive rookie starters -- De Leon, followed by Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart. Not included is maybe the most talented of them all, Julio Urias, who is nursing bruised fingers from a botched bunt attempt.
De Leon served up a two-run homer to Yangervis Solarte in the third inning and made a throwing error after fielding a bunt that contributed to two more runs in the fifth. But demonstrating the poise for which he's known, De Leon shook it off, striking out two batters the inning after Solarte's home run and striking out the side the inning after his error.
"I was pretty calm until I saw my brother," he said. "He went up to the rail and I just saw him. Usually when I pitch, I stick with my routine, but when I saw him I stopped my warmup and went up to him, hugged him, told him, 'I did it.' That was pretty special, I got emotional there. He didn't say much, but I know he almost cried.
"I saw on the replay for my first strikeout, my dad just jumped all over the place. It was my first time actually seeing them in the stadium since I signed in 2013 and now I know what they go through when they see me on the TV when they're in Puerto Rico."
Roberts started another rookie, catcher Austin Barnes, because the battery had worked together this year at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"That was huge," said De Leon. "I know with any guy they put up out there, they're going to take great care of me. With Barnes, I've been throwing to him the whole year, so he knows me better than anybody. I knew the Dodgers crowds are probably the biggest in Major League Baseball. I just tried to focus on the catcher. After I threw the first strike, everything was good."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.