When Lucas Gilbreath was in kindergarten, his father pulled him out of school for opening day and drove him the 20 minutes from Westminster to Coors Field.
That day, when he sat in the third deck in right field, is his earliest memory as a Rockies fan. On Saturday night against the Diamondbacks, he made his debut for the same team he skipped school for a decade ago.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I would have taken an opportunity wherever I got it, but I was very fortunate that it was a blessing to be picked up by them.”
Gilbreath was called up from the alternative training site Saturday after Antonio Senzatela was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain. Gilbreath was on the taxi squad for the Rockies' first road trip and was called up as the 27th man for the doubleheader April 17, but did not make an appearance.
With the Rockies up 14-5, Gilbreath was handed the ball for the ninth inning. He took a deep breath, tried to calm himself, and made it through his first outing with only six pitches.
“When they said ‘all right, it’s your ballgame,’ it hit me and I looked around,” he said. “Just seeing the surroundings and hearing the noise, it was crazy to me. Running out there and having all of that around me was a surreal experience.”
It wasn’t a picture-perfect moment — he gave up a home run on his first pitch. Manager Bud Black and pitching coach Steve told Gilbreath that they both had tough debuts though, and that they believe he’ll be a great asset to the team.
“I think I have a story that can one up both of them now,” Gilbreath said. “I’m going to give up home runs. It’s funny to get it out of the way first.”
Gilbreath played in the Broomfield baseball league growing up and then at Legacy High School. He was in the Little League parade at Coors Field multiple times, and loved to sit behind the dugout so he could see the players.
Gilbreath sat next to Jhoulys Chacin — who had his first stint with the Rockies from 2009-2014 — in the bullpen Saturday and asked him tons of questions about the players he grew up watching. Todd Helton was his favorite, and he also liked Jason Jennings and Jeff Francis.
Gilbreath was drafted as a starting pitcher and the Rockies converted him to reliever. Black said he first thought that Gilbreath was major league ready when he saw him in the instructional league last year. Gilbreath is the fifth player to be called up this season and fourth reliever, joining Ben Bowden, Jordan Sheffield and Justin Lawrence as rookies in the bullpen.
Gilbreath throws a fastball that averages 93-96 mph and a slider that’s in the mid-80s. He is also developing a split-finger pitch that he uses as a change-up, but needs to work on his control before he can use it in a game.
“He just seems to have a poise and a calmness about him,” Black said. “But, there is a competitor in there. He’s getting after it.”