After spending seven years in the minor leagues, Cam Vieaux was finally pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park when Evan Longoria came to bat with two outs and runners on first and second base.
The 28-year-old left-handed reliever was full of nerves but concentrated on keeping the same demeanor against the San Francisco Giants third baseman as he has had all season.
Facing a full count, Vieaux got Longoria swinging at an 87.8 mph changeup for his first major-league strikeout. AT&T SportsNet cameras captured his father celebrating by clapping, pumping his fist and high-fiving family members.
“It’s pretty insane,” Vieaux said. “Worked out well that it’s Father’s Day weekend, and I could get him something for that. I jokingly said, ‘Come out and act like you’ve been there before.’ I’m so glad he did that. It’s awesome. He rarely ever shows emotion. I’ve never seen him act like that. That was pretty cool.”
Pirates lefty reliever Cam Vieaux talks about his father’s reaction to his first major league strikeout and the emotions of making his debut. pic.twitter.com/7ylF8DQeCc
— Kevin Gorman (@KevinGormanPGH) June 18, 2022
A sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Michigan State, Vieaux was a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2017 with Single-A West Virginia and was named Double-A Altoona’s pitcher of the year in 2018 after he tied for the lead among Pirates farmhands in wins (13), ranked third in strikeouts (124), fifth in innings pitched (144 1/3) and eighth in ERA (3.68).
When outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba was placed on the 60-day injured list with a fractured right wrist, the Pirates selected the contract of Vieaux from Triple-A Indianapolis. Vieaux was 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 23 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings in 18 appearances this season.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton said he’d heard “a lot of positive things” about the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Vieaux, who had a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings over his last 15 appearances with Indianapolis, holding opponents to a . 123 batting average since April 26.
“Anytime we add anybody that’s not on the roster, you really have to be doing something that really stands out,” Shelton said. “He’s throwing the ball really well. He has the ability to throw multi innings, has the ability to get left-handers out. Everybody that’s run through there and I have had conversations with in the last month, his name is one of the first ones that comes up.”
Shelton turned to Vieaux with one out in the fifth inning, after starter Zach Thompson gave up his fifth walk. Vieaux got Luis Gonzalez, who hit a leadoff homer in the first, to fly out to the left. Mike Yastrzemski singled to right to put a runner in scoring position. Then Vieaux mixed his fastball and changeup to get Longoria swinging.
“I was just trying not to walk him,” Vieaux said with a laugh. “It felt good. Huge weight off my shoulders.”
The only problem was that Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes threw the ball to a kid in the stands for a souvenir. Vieaux wanted the ball as a memento and heard first baseman Michael Chavis shouting to Hayes.
“I thought we were running off the field before we got three outs or something,” Vieaux said. “I was like, ‘Oh, no. What happened?’”
The Pirates were working to get the ball back for Vieaux, who made a “really good first impression” on Shelton. The Pirates manager mentioned how Vieaux moved his fastball around the strike zone, executed his pitches and threw his changeup while behind in the count.
“What we heard about how he had pitched in Indy,” Shelton said, “he came out and pitched like that.”
Vieaux focused on staying confident and in attack mode, throwing his fastball for strikes. He started the sixth inning by striking out Joc Pederson, who hit a solo homer in the fourth, getting Brandon Belt to fly out to the left and whiffing Thairo Estrada.
Three strikeouts in his major-league debut?
“Awesome, man,” Vieaux said. “It’s been a long time coming. Seven years in the minors now. Just grinding through it. It really hasn’t even set in yet. It’s been a crazy 24 hours to say the least.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .