The long-awaited major league debut for Cesar Puello began when he met Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
It peaked when Puello drove in the go-ahead run with his first major league hit, and it ended with Puello securing the last out of the Angels' 5-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Baseball can work in funny ways, and it can also reward the perseverance that Puello displayed in a 10-year path to the majors that came to fruition Wednesday at Angel Stadium.
"I came here and I got a good opportunity and thank God for [helping me persevere]," Puello said. "I'm very thankful to be here."
Puello spent eight years in the New York Mets' organization, first as a non-drafted free agent signee in 2007. Once one of their top three prospects, Puello was suspended 50 games in 2013 for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The Mets released him in a 2015 season lost to injury, and Puello subsequently spent time with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers before the Angels signed him last December.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't see Puello in the spring. On Wednesday, he saw Puello become the first American League player to record at least a hit and two stolen bases in his major league debut when Puello stole second and third after his hit in the fourth inning.
"How about it?" Scioscia said. "You see the energy he has. It's great to see a young kid come up, and just go play the game of baseball."
Called up for his power, Puello, 26, hit the ball hard in three of his at-bats. He wasn't afraid of the circumstance.
"I was relaxed," Puello said. "I've been playing baseball for a long time. Something that I like to control is just slowing the game down and do what I've got to do."
Angels starter Troy Scribner could relate. He complemented Puello with his first win as a starter in his second major league start, giving up two hits in five innings.
Scribner retired 14 of his first 15 batters, although he gave up a home run to Welington Castillo on a shot that bounced off the yellow line at the top of the wall in right-center.
Scioscia removed Scribner for matchup reasons after he hit Joey Rickard in the sixth. Scribner said he was ready to go longer but took a lot from his latest outing. He was optioned back to triple A afterward as Andrew Heaney draws closer to returning.
"I think today was a big confidence builder for me," Scribner said. "I've been watching a lot since that last game and I've been learning a little bit more about how to sequence guys up here, and how to use my stuff better at this level."
Born two months after Puello, Scribner played with Puello in triple A, and fully appreciated Puello's debut.
"He's just one of those guys, he'll literally run through a wall for you," Scribner said. "Those are the kind of guys you want playing behind you … He's one of my favorite guys. I'm so happy he's here."
The matinee offered some kinks to the Angels' lineup. In addition to Puello, Trout made only his fifth appearance this season as designated hitter, and Andrelton Simmons batted third behind Trout for the second time this year as Pujols got the day off.
Trout singled twice and has hits in 19 of 22 games since he returned from injury. C.J. Cron had a season-high three hits and extended the lead to 4-1 with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. He has five RBIs in in four games.
Kole Calhoun equaled a season high with three hits.
Cameron Maybin was removed for a pinch-runner late in the game. Scioscia said it was mostly precautionary because Maybin has some "general stiffness" not related to Maybin's recent sprained knee … Simmons was the first Angels shortstop to bat third since Maicer Izturis in 2008 … Jose Alvarez was sent down.