Guardians slugger Jhonkensy Noel homers on first at-bat in MLB debut

BALTIMORE (AP) — Jhonkensy Noel became the fourth Cleveland player in franchise history to homer in his first major league at-bat, going deep Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles just hours after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus.

Noel launched a 1-1 pitch from Grayson Rodriguez in the second inning to put the Guardians up 1-0. On his first swing, the 22-year-old lost hold of his bat, sending it soaring toward third base.

One pitch later, Noel sent a fastball over the center-field wall. The drive traveled an estimated 413 feet.

The previous Cleveland player to hit a home run in his first at-bat in the majors was Kevin Kouzmanoff on Sept. 2, 2006.

Noel hit .295 with 15 doubles, 18 homers, 59 RBIs and a .578 slugging percentage in 65 games with Columbus this season. He leads the International League in RBIs, extra-base hits (35) and total bases (149).

“He’s got some power, obviously,” Cleveland manager Stephen Vogt said before the game. “That’s a guy who loves to play. That smile, you’d think Christmas is here. We’re pumped to have him. He’s a good baseball player and he’s been raking. He earned his way here.”

Noel batted sixth and manned first base in his debut with the Guardians.

Noel played first base, left field, right field and designated hitter for Columbus this season. Vogt got a feel for how Noel played the field during spring training.

“He can play defense. He looked good at first, he looked good in the outfield when we had him,” the manager said.

Signed by Cleveland as an amateur free agent in July 2017, the Dominican Republic native has 112 home runs in 517 minor league games.

To make room for the rookie on the roster, the Guardians optioned outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez to Columbus.



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