While attending high school just outside of Tampa Bay in 2001, Litsch won a contest where he wrote a 1000-word essay on why he wanted to become an intern with the Devil Rays. The prize? A job as the team's batboy.
Litsch spent two seasons with the club and after a five-year hiatus he is finally back in the Majors, but this time it's on the Blue Jays 25-man roster. Litsch arrived at the Toronto clubhouse on Monday afternoon in preparation for his Major League debut against the Orioles. The 22-year-old righty was called up from Double-A New Hampshire to replace Toronto ace Roy Halladay, who underwent surgery on Friday night to remove his appendix.
While working for the Rays, Litsch got an opportunity to talk baseball with some of the game's best, and he thinks the experience might have helped him get to where he is today.
"I always picked their mind," Litsch said. "Trying to learn new things ... [I wanted] to get the best out of what I had and take advantage of it."
On Tuesday, Litsch will have an opportunity to pitch against two of the players he used to work for. Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff and utility infielder Chris Gomez were both with Tampa Bay during Litsch's two seasons with the club.
It was a quick ascension to the big leagues for Litsch. In 12 starts last season for Double-A New Hamphire, he went just 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA. This year he spent Spring Training with the Jays Minor League camp and wasn't expected to figure into Toronto's plans for 2007. A combination of a Blue Jays starting staff that has been ravaged by injuries, and a dominating start to the season for Litsch, changed all of that. In six starts for New Hampshire, he is 5-1 with a 0.96 ERA. He's allowed only one earned run in his last four starts, which is one of the main reasons Jays manager John Gibbons said Toronto gave him a call.
"It's the perfect time to get him up here because he's been on a roll," Gibbons said. "[He's] very composed and confident."
Litsch credits an improved changeup as one of the main reasons for his turnaround season. Litsch was approached by New Hampshire pitching coach Dave LaRoche, who convinced him that the pitch was going to be a big key to his future success.
"This year I've been throwing them a lot more," Litsch said. "[LaRoche] put me to a challenge to throw it 15-20 times a game and it's worked out for the best."
The call-up is the perfect gift for his dad, Rich, who turns 57 tomorrow. His dad sells flooring supplies as a living, and was scheduled to work tomorrow. Litsch says his dad was in the process of taking care of that minor detail and is expected to be in attendance for his son's first game.
"He said he'll take care of it," Litsch laughed. "I'm sure they'll give him a day off for this."
Glaus back in: Jays third baseman Troy Glaus made his return to the lineup on Monday night versus the Orioles. During Friday's victory over Tampa Bay, Glaus re-injured his left foot while running to first base. He hobbled off the field and was unavailable for the remainder of the weekend. Earlier this season Glaus landed on the 15-day disabled list, and missed 14 games with a bone spur in his left foot. It's the same issue that flared up again during the game against Tampa Bay.
There isn't much that can be done medically to help Glaus out. Gibbons said prior to Monday's game that his 30-year-old slugger was feeling a lot better, but that the Jays were expecting the injury to be a reoccurring problem throughout the season.
"He's feeling much better, so hopefully that lasts," Gibbons said. "It's something we think might nag him on and off for the remainder of the year. But it's good to get him back out there and get his bat back into the lineup."
Glaus is hitting .313 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 21 games this season. Whenever possible, Toronto is expected to send in late-inning replacements at third base so Glaus can stay fresh.
Day off for Lind: John Gibbons decided to give left fielder Adam Lind a day off for Monday night's game against the Orioles. Matt Stairs, who hit his first home run of the season on Sunday afternoon, got the start in left. Gibbons said he made the lineup change to give Lind a day off against Baltimore's left-handed starting pitcher, Erik Bedard (3-2, 4.79).
"I wanted to get Stairsy some at-bats, he swung it good yesterday," Gibbons said. "Tough lefty [starting for Baltimore], I wanted to give Lindy a break."
Did you know? The Devil Rays and Blue Jays combined for just six hits during Sunday afternoon's game. The six hits ties the record for the fewest combined hits in a Jays game over the past nine-plus seasons. The overall club record is five. The last time that happened was on July 28, 1997, against Milwaukee.
Coming up: Litsch is scheduled to make his Major League debut as he takes the mound against the Orioles at 7:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. Baltimore will counter with righty Daniel Cabrera (3-3, 4.59).
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.