"They would always say, 'It's your command,' " Fortugno said, "but basically, my walks have come down slowly each year. I've gone out and battled. I've never done anything to hurt my career, and I don't dwell on why I never got here before this."
Fortugno's arrival in the major leagues came late, but he is making the most of it. In his second start, the 30-year-old rookie held the Detroit Tigers to three hits and struck out 12 Saturday to earn his first victory, leading the Angels to a 9-0 victory before 30,682 at Anaheim Stadium.
"This makes it all worthwhile," said Fortugno, a Huntington Beach resident who played for 10 minor league teams before the Angels chose him in last winter's Rule 5 draft.
"I knew we had a lead, but I just went out there and kept pitching as though I didn't have a lead. You never feel comfortable out there until you actually get to the very end."
Fortugno (pronounced For-TOON-yo) ended the game by retiring 15 of the last 16. Relying on a sharply breaking curveball, Fortugno set an Angel season strikeout high and a single-game record for most strikeouts by an Angel rookie. His total was the highest since Jim Abbott--whom Fortugno is replacing in the rotation--struck out 13 Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 24.
No Tiger made it past second base as Fortugno walked four. He had walked 372 and struck out 702 in 558 2/3 minor league innings.
"I don't know him from Adam, but this is the best game that's been pitched against us this year," Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson said. "If you had to get beat, I'm glad it's by a kid who's put in his time."
During that time, Fortugno remained sure he would make it. That day didn't come until July 16, after Abbott suffered a pulled rib-cage muscle and Fortugno, who struggled in relief for triple-A Edmonton but was 5-1 as a starter, got his chance.
He got no decision in his debut Monday, when he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the Angels made his task easier Saturday by scoring three runs during the second inning and four during the fourth against Walt Terrell (4-9). Seven Angels scored at least one run and six drove in at least one run.
"I told him once we got five or six runs, 'Don't look at the scoreboard. Stay aggressive and stay ahead of hitters,' and he did," catcher Ron Tingley said after the Angels' 10th victory in 13 games. Forced to bear down after walking Mickey Tettleton and giving up a single to Mark Carreon during the second, Fortugno retired Skeeter Barnes on a popup and Chad Kreuter on a fly ball to left. A single by Barnes and a walk to Kreuter with two out in the fourth tested him again, but Fortugno struck out Gary Pettis.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd go five innings today, that's how exhausted I was," Fortugno said. "I made some good pitches when I had to, got some outs, and it just worked out for me. . . . John (Wathan, the interim manager) came up to me in the seventh and asked how I felt arm-wise. I said I was a little tired), but I felt good . . . My curveball actually got a little sharper in the eighth and ninth innings."
His curveball never looked bad to his teammates at any point.
Said Gary DiSarcina, whose single to left during the fourth drove in the Angel' fourth run: "He didn't pitch like a rookie today. He had great composure and just goes right at guys. It's impressive, especially with their lineup."
Fortugno's only weakness, so far, is in anticipating his teammates' pranks. Mark Langston hit him in the face with a cream pie during a TV interview Monday and on Saturday, Chuck Finley gave him a champagne shampoo. But Fortugno didn't mind.
"I never once ever thought to quit," he said. "I've been frustrated many times along the way but I never, ever thought to quit. I'm glad I didn't."