When it comes down to competition, you really do want to beat your friends.
Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani have grown up in baseball together. Riding minor league busses, getting chewed out by the same managers, being cheered and booed by the same fans will bring a young man ,competing for lucrative Major League employment, closer together.
Joey Votto, one of the best hitters in the game, was Nicolino's first strikeout victim in the Major Leagues and he has the baseball to prove it.
"It was a true blessing to pitch in the big leagues," Nicolino said. "I don't punch out a lot of people. To punch out Joey Votto was an honor. I have the scorecard, the baseball from the first pitch and the baseball from striking out Votto.
"It was even better to pitch against my best friend," Nicolino said. "I was mad when he got the first hit. That was the first hit I gave up in the big leagues. I was joking mad at him. That will be something we will talk about at the wedding. I couldn't believe he got a hit."
Nicolino's fans for his debut included his fiance, his parents, and his grandparents.
"It was crazy to see my friend and family," the 23-year old said.
Nicolino got the last laugh by pitching seven scoreless innings while his 24-year old friend gave up three in one bad inning. Nicolino became the 10th Marlin pitcher to get a win in his debut and the first since DeSclafani himself did it last season.
The win not withstanding, DeSclafani cruelly attacked his friend in his at bat. The Reds' hurler fed Nicolino a steady diet of sliders.
"I saw one fastball and I took it," Nicolino said. "Then he threw three sliders. I looked at him and said,'are you kidding me?' "
The pair were bonded together by another event early in their baseball careers.
Both were drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and worked out in spring training together. They played on the same minor league teams.
Both were included in a trade in which Miami sent "name players" Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, ace Josh Johnson and popular Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays for prospects, no names, DeSclafani, Nicolino, Jeff Mathis, and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Miami fans did not take that well.
It didn't make him any more competitive.
"You always want to go out and show your ability," said Nicolino, who is the last of that group to make it to the Major League level. "Sometimes you have to time those things out."
"Yesterday made all the bus rides, all the things that happened worth it," Nicolino said.
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The only thing that would make it perfect was to make his friend his first strikeout victim.
"If he didn't get a hit off me, I'd rather strikeout DeSclafani than Votto for my first one," Nicolino said..
|Professionally edited by ML Schirmer|
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