Nik Turley found out Sunday that he'd be driving to Moosic, Pa. for his Triple-A debut. Waiting there at the newly renovated PNC Field were big leaguers Curtis Granderson and Jason Heyward.
"It's just a good experience, a good opportunity to learn and kind of observe and see how the game is played and try to learn," Turley said. "I found out yesterday. One day. It's not a far drive, it wasn't that big of a deal, I'm just happy to come up and have the opportunity."
The 50th-round pick didn't disappoint in his spot start, striking out the rehabbing Heyward in the first inning en route to allowing one run on two hits over six frames in the RailRiders' 3-2 loss to the Gwinnett Braves.
Heyward's two-out RBI double in the third was the only blemish on Turley's record. He struck out four, walked three and threw 53 of his 90 pitches for strikes in his first outing above Double-A Trenton.
"It's hard to tell," Turley said of the talent different between levels. "I've only had one outing up here, I guess just facing Heyward was the biggest difference. He got me."
But first, Turley got him. He froze the Braves outfielder in the first with a called strike three as part of a 1-2-3 opening frame. Turley worked around a leadoff walk in the second but a free pass, a wild pitch and Heyward's double in the third gave Gwinnett a 1-0 lead. The Braves managed the go-ahead run in the ninth on Ernesto Mejia's leadoff homer off Sam Demel.
Turley, who was 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA in seven starts for Trenton, said he was a little anxious heading into the start.
"A litle bit," he said. "There are always some nerves going in, but not too much more than normal."
Heyward, who went 1-for-2 with a walk, is hitting .214 with four RBIs and six strikeouts in 14 at-bats as he works back from an appendectomy.
"Got him looking, it was pretty cool," Turley said of the strikeout. "I try not to think about it, I know he's a great player."
Turley had his own star outfielder behind him, though, in Granderson, who went 1-for-3 with a walk as he rehabs a Spring Training forearm injury.
"It's a good feeling, getting a promotion, playing with guys, Granderson, all these guys -- we've got a lot of good players here," he said. "It was a privilege to pitch and play with them."
Ranked No. 14 among Yankees prospects by MLB.com, was a late-round pick by New York in 2008 out of Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) High School primarily because most teams believed he would maintain his committment to Brigham Young University instead of signing. He debuted with the Gulf Coast Yankees in '08 and has worked his way up to the highest level of the system.
Now after tackling Triple-A, he hopes there's a chance to continue on his journey. New York has shown a willingness to call upon Minor Leaguers this season in the wake of injuries in the Bronx. Some of Turley's teammates such as Corban Joseph, Vidal Nuno and Austin Romine all contributed for the Yankees earlier Monday.
"That's the exciting part," he said. "Coming up here, I didn't know, they told me out of the blue. That'd definitely be exciting. To know they have faith in our farm system, it's a good thing. We have a lot of talent, and I know a lot of guys down here could be up there."
Turley said his offspeed pitches were off and on throughout the start. As a result, he relied on whatever he was able to command at times.
"I had to focus on a couple other pitches to use," he said. "It's another learning experience, I've got to be able to locate my other pitches if something isn't working. I was able to do that, I battled and it was fun."
Melky Mesa smacked a solo shot in the fifth and plated both runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Yohan Flande started for Gwinnett and allowed two runs on five hits and four walks over six frames before Kameron Low (1-0) worked the seventh and eighth for his first win. Cory Rasmus recorded the final three outs for his fifth save.