Smeltzer made his MLB debut on Tuesday after getting called up from Triple A Rochester.
Twins rookie Devin Smeltzer made his MLB debut against the Brewers at Target Field in Minneapolis on Tuesday, dealing six shutout innings in a 5-3 Minnesota victory. And the strong performance came with a touch of added emotion for the 23-year-old left hander.
Smeltzer was diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine after doctors found a "grapefruit-sized mass in his abdomen," per the Minnesota Star Tribune's Jim Souhan. The cancer has reportedly been in remission for seven years, but Smeltzer carries his battle with him each time he takes the mound.
“I put a lot into that back story,” Smeltzer told reporters following Tuesday's victory. “It’s made me the man I am today, on and off the field. I know that tomorrow, between the lines, may not happen. It’s been told to me before. I don’t take a day for granted out there.”
Minnesota's newest starter held his emotions in check for much of Tuesday night, at least until he saw his wife following the victory.
“It’s hard to keep it together,” Smeltzer said. “We are all extremely emotional people. My wedding was 75 percent laughing and the rest bawling our eyes out, and that’s what it was tonight.”
Smeltzer was selected by the Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft. He was dealt to Minnesota's organization in 2018 in a package that sent veteran infielder Brian Dozier to Los Angeles, beginning 2019 with Double A Pensacola before a promotion to Triple A Rochester.
The advanced to 37–17 with Tuesday's victory. The Twins are 10 games ahead of the Indians for the AL Central lead. They have reached the postseason just once since 2011.