CHICAGO — Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter put an arm around Jason Foley as he made his mound visit in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. That’s how the hard-throwing right-hander’s Major League debut was going.
Foley hit two of his first three batters within his first seven pitches. His breaking ball wasn’t breaking all that much, and his two-seam fastball was being temperamental. Chicago wasn’t hitting him hard, with an Andrew Vaughn ground ball for one out and a Nick Madrigal line drive for another. As Tim Anderson stepped to the plate, Foley’s toughest opponents were arguably himself and his command.
Considering what Foley went through to get to a Major League mound, though, he didn’t have to worry about getting off of it. Anderson fouled off four of Foley’s sinking fastballs at 96-97 mph, waiting for a mistake before Foley went to the power four-seamer that drew the Tigers’ attention in the first place. The 99 mph heater induced a ground ball to second to end the inning and put Foley’s first big league inning in the books.
Foley’s debut was one of the Tigers’ few bright spots in Sunday’s defeat, their third in the four-game series to complete a 2-4 road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago. But it was a long time in the making. It came five years after Foley was pitching for the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod Summer League, having gone undrafted following his junior season at Sacred Heart University.
His numbers weren’t great, with 10 hits and four walks over eight innings, but his upper-90s fastball was nasty enough to catch scouts’ attention.
“I was definitely very surprised,” Foley said. “I had kind of already gotten over the fact that I wasn’t drafted, just ready to head back to school, didn’t really expect anything of the sort; any team to reach out. And when they did, it was a pretty unreal experience. Everything happened super quick.”
Within a couple of days of the Tigers expressing interest, they had a deal, and Foley was headed from summer ball in Chatham, Conn., down the road to the Tigers’ farm system, eventually down the road to Class A NY-Penn League affiliate in Norwich.
From there, Foley’s career took off. He stuck out 36 batters over 29 innings at then-Class A West Michigan, and his fastball approached triple digits.