There's always a slight bit of trepidation for a player when he makes a debut at a new level.
But for Zach Petrick, they have to at least be bordering on routine by now.
The 23-year-old was solid in his first Double-A start Tuesday. He allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out eight in six innings to lead Springfield to a 5-2 win over Arkansas. The introduction with the Cardinals was his third with a new team this year.
"I couldn't ask for anything better than that," Petrick said. "Going six innings, and I was throwing with Casey Rasmus, who I've been with this whole year. I felt comfortable out there and couldn't ask for a better catcher in my debut here," he said. "I just want to prove that I can do it at this level, so I kind of took it as a challenge when I went out there. I was glad I showed myself I could compete at this level."
Petrick has made a speedy climb through the St. Louis system this season. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 by the Cardinals out of University of Northwestern Ohio, Petrick began his pro career with Rookie-level Johnson City in the Appalachian League last year.
He started out well enough, going 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA with 50 strikeouts and nine walks in 45 2/3 frames.
But this year, he's been on another plane entirely. The Illinois native began the season in the bullpen with Class A Peoria. In 32 2/3 innings he registered an 0.83 ERA, earning him his first promotion. Then with Class A Advanced Palm Beach, where he made five appearances out of the bullpen and four starts, he was even better with a 0.27 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. He struck out 32 and walked just four in the Florida State League.
That brought him to the Texas League on Tuesday.
"I've been very surprised [by the numerous promotions]. Obviously, the Cardinals are known for moving guys up pretty quick, but especially being a free agent, I'm very surprised. I was in Johnson City last season and now I'm in Double-A, which is crazy," he said.
The ascension is not too dissimilar from that of Brandon Beachy's. The Atlanta arm was also an undrafted free agent and climbed through three levels in his first full season.
By the end of his second year, he'd made his Major League debut.
Overall, Petrick boasts an 0.63 ERA in 72 innings across the three levels, with 86 strikeouts and 13 walks. He's also proven his flexibility, seamlessly transitioning between the bullpen and rotation.
"It just shows [the Cardinals] think highly that I can compete at higher levels and they have confidence that I can do that. It feels good, obviously I'm riding a little groove and have been successful but I'm confident with the stuff I'm throwing out there right now. I'm having a lot of fun," he said.
James Ramsey and Ruben Gotay smacked solo homers and Jake Lemmerman doubled twice Tuesday for Springfield.