Stephen Pryor begins his major-league career by striking out Paul Konerko on a 100 mph fastball in a key situation.
CHICAGO — Nothing like striking out Paul Konerko on a 100 mph fastball to start your big-league career.
Actually, there’s nothing quite like facing power behemoth Konerko with two on and two out in a close game late the way Mariners rookie Stephen Pryor had to do as an introduction. Pryor, 22, knew exactly what the Mariners were getting him into — or hoping he’d get them out of — as he took the mound to face a guy with 407 career home runs.
“Yeah, I saw who I was going to be facing,” Pryor said. “I tried not to think about it and just focused on trying to throw strikes.”
The first pitch, taken by Konerko for a called strike, was clocked at 100 mph by the PitchFX camera monitoring system. Pryor then threw him two fastballs taken for balls at 99 mph and saw Konerko swing through a 98 mph offering to even the count at 2-2.
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His next pitch was the 100 mph fastball that Konerko swung at and missed.
“After the first out that inning, I came to the dugout and felt a little short of breath,” Pryor said, admitting to some nerves. “But I was able to get it back and come back out for the next inning.”
Pryor got two more outs in the eighth before Dayan Viciedo launched a game-tying homer to right-center on an 88 mph slider that Pryor admits he hung.
“I threw him a lot of sliders trying to stay away from him,” he said. “But I left one up and he got a hold of it. So, it’s a good learning experience for me as well.”
• Franklin Gutierrez began his long-awaited AAA rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma on Saturday night, batting second and serving as a designated hitter. Gutierrez is to play in center field on Sunday, and then the Mariners will take things from there depending on how he feels.
The assignment can’t be any longer than 20 days, which would put Gutierrez back with the Mariners by June 23 if all goes well.
• The Mariners had leadoff home runs in the first, second and third innings on Saturday, the first time in team history that has been done.
For the record: W-L: 24-31 PCT: .436
vs. L.A.: 0-4
vs. Oakland: 5-2
vs. Texas: 5-5
vs. AL East: 2-10
vs. AL Cent: 9-10
vs. NL: 3-0
vs. LHP: 7-8
vs. RHP: 17-23
Extra inngs: 3-2