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Two Tampa Bay Rays prospects experience whirlwind day en route to major-league debuts

ST. PETERSBURG — Left-hander Alex Torres woke up Monday morning in Rochester, N.Y., expecting to be pitching for Triple-A Durham.

He had answered the call the night before when his roommate with the Bulls, catcher Robinson Chirinos, got his first big-league call-up. At around 8 a.m. Monday, Chirinos answered when Torres got his.

"It was crazy," Torres said.

It got wilder. In a whirlwind 24 hours, Torres and Chirinos took two flights before arriving at Tropicana Field an hour before the showdown with the Yankees.

Both played key roles in their big-league debuts. Chirinos started behind the plate in the 5-4 loss and got his first career hit. Torres, 23, picked up the loss, allowing a run on three walks (one intentional) before getting optioned back to Durham.

Torres took the experience in stride — the Rays sent him down to bring up a fresh arm for a depleted bullpen — with manager Joe Maddon saying "he's got a great future with us."

"I was ready to pitch today, but everything happens too fast," Torres, of Venezuela, said through an interpreter. "The traveling, and all that stuff. But I was ready."

Chirinos, called up to replace Jose Lobaton (who sprained his left MCL in Sunday's game), didn't know he was starting until around 5 p.m., when he landed in Tampa and received a text message from his sister, Rusmery, who saw the news online.

"I think everything was so quick, there was no time to get nervous," Chirinos said.

Chirinos, 27, a 10-year-minor league veteran who impressed in spring training after being acquired in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs, went over scouting reports once he got to the Trop and didn't waste any time his first trip to the plate. On the first pitch Chirinos saw from Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, he ripped a double to centerfield.

When asked why he started Chirinos, Maddon quipped before the game it was "American Legion Night," and that he likes to throw young players into the fire.

"It was amazing," Chirinos said. "From the very first pitch."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Two Tampa Bay Rays prospects experience whirlwind day en route to major-league debuts 07/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:34am]
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