Nick Tropeano, one of the most successful pitchers to have played for the Stony Brook baseball team, found himself bouncing from place to place during the abbreviated 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season before finally returning to big league action with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Two days shy of his 30th birthday, the 2010 and 2011 America East Pitcher of the Year winner appeared in an MLB game for the first time in 13 months. Tropeano dazzled in his season debut, pitching four scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox in relief of Pirates starter Steven Brault. He struck out four while allowing just three hits and zero walks.
“Give him a ton of credit,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said after the game. “I mean, he hasn’t thrown a ton. To go out and give us four innings of length and to keep a really good offense off-balance. Really good pitch mix, and definitely went right at them and attacked them, and I think we saw it.”
Tropeano signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees in January that included an invitation to spring training, as the native Long Islander hoped to make it to the big leagues for his local team. When preseason play resumed in Florida under the “Summer Camp” moniker following a suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he earned a spot on the Yankees’ 60-man roster.
The righty was first sent to the team’s alternate training site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on July 22, and was then added to the Yankees’ 40-man major league roster on Aug. 6. Tropeano’s time in the Bronx lasted for two days as he was quickly designated for assignment before appearing in a single game for New York.
Facing another losing season, the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates claimed Tropeano off of waivers on Aug. 11, and sent him to their alternate training site in Altoona, Pennsylvania. On Aug. 23, Tropeano was called back up to the major leagues.
Shelton outlined his plans to use Tropeano in long relief or as a starter earlier this week. “He can give us some length once we get him stretched out,” Shelton said. “Just getting an active arm, a healthy arm.”
The results were encouraging for Tropeano as he was able to punch out White Sox stars Tim Anderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada. He ultimately threw 40 pitches with 31 of them being for strikes.
“I’m here to pick up the team in any way,” Tropeano said following his outing. “They wanted me to go a little long today. I felt pretty good. I was just trying to get ahead of all the hitters, with first-pitch strikes, using all my pitches and try to put them away when I can.”
After a rough 2019 in which Tropeano had a 9.88 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched, the former Houston Astros fifth-round draft pick entered the offseason without a team after electing free agency following five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. Tuesday’s performance was crucial in ensuring Tropeano’s roster spot on the Pirates.
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito would overshadow Tropeano’s return by throwing MLB’s first no-hitter of the season in the same game. “[Tropeano] did not mess around,” Pirates color commentator John Wehner said on the broadcast. “It’s a shame that nobody’s going to even talk about him because of what Giolito’s doing, but my goodness, give him a bone. What an outstanding job he did.”