Poncedeleon caps comeback from brain surgery in grand fashion

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon. (Twitter pic)

LOS ANGELES: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon hurled seven-no hit innings in his Major League Baseball debut on Monday, 15 months after undergoing emergency brain surgery.

The 26-year-old American left the game after the seventh inning having struck out three batters and allowing just three walks.

Cincinnati pinch hitter Phillip Ervin hit a single off relief pitcher Jordan Hicks in the eighth inning as the Reds went on to win the game 2-1 on Dilson Herrera’s walk off single with the bases loaded.

The loss doesn’t diminish Poncedeleon’s brilliant performance, which makes him just the fifth pitcher to carry a no-hit bid through seven innings in his MLB debut since 1961.

“I don’t know if words can describe that. Talk about magical,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.

“What he dealt with, what he has come back from, making his MLB debut, throwing seven innings without giving up a hit — that’s what’s magical about this game and special about this game, is stories like that.”

In May 2017, Poncedeleon was playing in a minor league game when he was hit in the right temple by a line drive. The drive fractured his skull and he also suffered bleeding from the brain.

He underwent brain surgery and remained in hospital for three weeks before starting rehab.

The Californian said the hardest part of the comeback was not being able to do physical things.

“The sitting around waiting for three months for my skull to heal was a big challenge for me,” Poncedeleon said. “Sitting around is real boring for me.”

Poncedeleon’s family was there to watch him pitch and his father got one of the foul balls that sailed into the stands. Poncedeleon celebrated after the game with them.

“I tried to get dressed as fast as I could to see my family. They came from different areas of the world to see me,” he said.

In February the Cardinals invited him to their training camp and he started the season with Triple A Memphis.

With Memphis he compiled a 9-3 record with 103 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. He won his last four starts, including a one-hitter on July 15, before being called up by St. Louis.

“My fastball has been working really well. That challenges hitters,” Poncedeleon said.

Asked if Poncedeleon’s effort Monday earned him another start, Shildt replied, “To be determined. Clearly proved he deserves the opportunity to start here.”