Cards' ace caps comeback from brain surgery

In May 2017, Daniel Poncedeleon was pitching in Triple-A Memphis, waiting for a call to the St Louis Cardinals.

Daniel Poncedeleon of the St Louis Cardinals pitches in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds during their MLB game at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday. The Reds won 2-1.

In May 2017, Daniel Poncedeleon was pitching in Triple-A Memphis, waiting for a call to the St Louis Cardinals. On the mound for Memphis, he was struck by a line drive in the right temple, endangering his career. And also his life.

Despite weeks in the intensive care unit while recovering from emergency brain surgery, he was invited to spring training with the Cardinals. On Monday night, the 26-year-old Californian made his major league debut for St Louis at Cincinnati — and he was outstanding.

Poncedeleon threw seven no-hit innings before leaving for a pinch hitter with the Cardinals leading 1-0. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the fifth pitcher since 1961 to carry a no-hitter through at least seven innings in his debut.

Poncedeleon allowed only three walks while striking out three. He left after throwing 116 pitches, 75 for strikes, in a game Cincinnati eventually won 2-1.

The rookie didn’t question Cardinals manager Mike Shildt for pulling him with a no-hitter intact. “I’m a liability at the plate,” Poncedeleon said. “Struck out twice looking. One-run game, needed a big at-bat. One hundred percent understand. Plus I was 100-something pitches in.”

Shildt said: “Talk about magical. What he dealt with, what he’s 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.”

The Cardinals recalled the righty from Memphis, where he had a 9-3 record and a 2.15 ERA, having struck out 103 batters in 92 innings. He pitched a one-hitter in his last outing on July 15 and had won four straight starts.

This is Poncedeleon’s second stint in St Louis this season. Called up last month, he didn’t see action in his three games on the roster. He also pitched one inning in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 and struck out all three batters he faced.

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