The first season in the big leagues is considered a learning experience, and Mickey Callaway certainly learned something about himself Monday _ and showed his teammates something in the process.
After allowing singles to the first two batters in Monday's game, the Devil Rays rookie right-hander ripped through the heart of the Mariners' vaunted lineup, striking out Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez and retiring Edgar Martinez on a groundout.
It may have been only three outs in the first inning of a game his team went on to lose 4-0, but it was something Callaway _ and the Rays _ were going to remember.
"He did a heck of a job to get out of that," manager Larry Rothschild said. "You've got to give him a lot of credit. The only way to do that is keep your poise."
At the time, Callaway was more focused on just getting an out, knowing that if he didn't he quickly could be out of the game. But Tuesday he was able to reflect on what was one of the top experiences of his four-game major-league career.
"To be in that kind of situation, that's why you play the game," Callaway said. "Here's a challenging situation _ you've got Griffey, A-Rod and Edgar Martinez coming up and let's see what you can do with it. Just go after them and see what happens. That's the part of the game that's fun."
Everything has been a little more enjoyable as the 24-year-old has gotten more comfortable with each day in the big leagues.
"The main thing is the atmosphere, learning the routines and getting in there and feeling comfortable," Callaway said. "When I first got to Triple A last year it took me five, six, seven starts to really get into my routine, and then I started pitching well. Like anything, you've got to feel comfortable where you're at, and I actually felt a lot more comfortable (Monday) than I had in my other games."
Against the league's most potent lineup, Callaway gave up six singles and three runs in five innings. Rothschild said Callaway had a better fastball Monday than in previous games, and that allowed him to make more effective use of his curveball and changeup.
"Overall that might have been my best game in that I threw more quality pitches than I had in the others," Callaway said. "You go out there and you take your lumps and you take the good things. That's how you learn."