BOSTON – It was a little less than a year ago that Dominic Leone was sitting in the stands at Fenway Park. With his season over at Class AA Jackson, Leone took in a Red Sox game in September.
It was nothing new for the native of Norwich, Conn., which is about 100 miles from Boston.
“Went to a ton of games here as a kid,” he said. “And every time was awesome.”
But it was more awesome on Friday night. In front of family and friends, the Mariners’ right-handed reliever jogged onto the field of Fenway with “Sweet Caroline” blasting over the speakers to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning and face the heart of the Red Sox order.
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“It was special,” Leone said. “It was awesome to run out, especially when they’re playing ‘Sweet Caroline.’ It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Leone got Dustin Pedroia to ground out, walked David Ortiz, struck out Yoenis Cespedes and got Allen Craig to line out to end the inning.
“Those are guys I was just watching a few years ago,” he said. “It was extra motivation knowing there was some family in the stands and I wanted to put on a good show for them. It was just a great night.”
Leone has had plenty of great nights for the Mariners this season. He’s performed beyond expectations, considering he had never pitched above Class AA.
In 45 relief appearances, he has a 6-2 record with a 2.60 earned-run average. In 52 innings pitched, he’s struck out 55, while walking just 20.
Leone wasn’t initially on manager Lloyd McClendon’s radar when McClendon was hired in the offseason. McClendon first became aware of Leone by accident.
“I was in Seattle in the winter and I happened to be flipping through the channels and a (Arizona) Fall League game was on,” McClendon said. “Leone was pitching. I said, `Who in the heck is this?’ Nobody ever mentioned this guy to me, and I’m seeing 97 (mph). So he caught my eye then, and I was anxious to see him in spring training, and he didn’t disappoint.”
Leone didn’t make the team out of spring training and started with Class AAA Tacoma, but never threw a pitch for the Rainiers. He was called up early in the season when Hector Noesi was designated for assignment.
“He was very impressive in the spring really to the point where he probably should have made our team out of spring training,” McClendon said.
• Logan Morrison was out of the lineup Saturday with stomach issues that started after Friday night’s win.
Kendrys Morales started at first base in his place. Morrison said he felt better postgame and would be ready to go Sunday.