By Jerry Del Priore
Right-handed pitcher Merandy Gonzalez, a 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star, became the first former Firefly to appear in a Major League Baseball game. The 22-year-old ex-Brooklyn Cyclone and current Miami Marlins hurler struck out All-Star Lorenzo Cain and tossed two scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Thursday night.
Five years in the making, Gonzalez was ecstatic to climb the hill and deliver at baseball’s highest level for Miami.
“When I got the call, it was one of the more emotional moments of my career,” Gonzalez told MLB.com Marlins reporter Joe Frisaro. “It’s been five years since I’ve wanted to get the call and be up here. It was a great moment.”
Miami added Gonzalez, the 14th-rated prospect in its system, to its major league roster on Thursday, when the Marlins placed reliever Chris O’Grady on the disabled list. Gonzalez was called up from double-A Jacksonville after starting a pair of games for the Jumbo Shrimp.
The New York Mets dealt Gonzalez, a farmhand from 2013-2017, and Ricardo Cespedes to Miami in exchange for All-Star reliever A.J. Ramos, on July 28, 2017.
Gonzalez’s achievement had Columbia’s front office beaming with pride and satisfaction.
“It’s amazing to see our first former player reach the Major Leagues,” said Fireflies team President John Katz in a press release. “Merandy was baffling opposing hitters less than a year ago at Spirit Communications Park. It’s a great day for Merandy and the Fireflies, and we’re anxiously anticipating our next player to make his MLB debut.”
Perhaps Gonzalez’s most dominant stretch of his minor league career took place during his time as a Firefly, from April 9-May 3, 2017. The righty was downright impressive in his first five outings of the season, registering a 28.2 consecutive scoreless inning streak during that stretch.
Gonzalez, a Mets’ 2013 non-drafted free agent, played with the Cyclones in 2016, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.87 ERA in 69.0 innings of work in 14 contests.