ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Andrew Bellatti has now tasted big league success. It might not have been possible without the forgiveness of a woman five years ago.
The 23-year-old pitcher was the winning pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays' 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night. The victory came in his first major league appearance after six-plus years in the minor leagues.
''It's definitely a sense of accomplishment,'' he said Sunday. ''Not like a big accomplishment, but I'm going in the right direction. To be very honest, there was a time when I thought nothing would happen as far as baseball. I didn't really think I'd have a career.''
That time came after his first professional season when Bellatti was sentenced to eight months in jail for vehicular manslaughter. A car he had been driving in wet conditions at 80 mph, according to estimates by San Diego police, struck another car head-on on Jan. 22, 2010, The other driver, 50-year-old David Reid, was killed. Reid's 17-year-old son, Garrett, was seriously injured.
Bellatti spent three months in jail, thinking many things. One of them was that his baseball career might be over. During that time he asked for and received the forgiveness of Reid's wife, Lynette.
''Her saying what she did, showing what she did show, that definitely had a major role in everything that's happened,'' he said. ''I can't even express how much it meant, how much it meant as far as my family and everything.''
Five members of his family, including his parents, were at Tropicana Field for Bellatti's debut Saturday night. He pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief and gave up just one hit, becoming the first Rays pitcher to get the win in a relief appearance of three innings or more in his major league debut.
''He showed poise, the command of the fastball, and willingness to get strike one and keep attacking the zone,'' manager Kevin Cash said.
''I would have loved to finish the game,'' Bellatti said, ''but I'll definitely take what happened yesterday.''
There was a time when he would have taken anything to find a way out of the misery he had caused when he was 18.
''When the Rays stuck with me through that whole time, giving me support and just talking to me and letting me know that I definitely have a job after everything's said and done - that gave me kind of a light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said.
Then came the forgiveness from Lynette Reid.
''I can't even put it into words,'' Bellatti said. ''Right off the bat it was hard to focus, but then as the seasons progressed, as the spring trainings progressed, it did get easier.
''Coming out of high school, I gave myself like five years, setting goals, but in retrospect I've hit every level . . . I feel like I've progressed pretty well.''