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Bats muffled in B.C. native's debut start

Mild offensive production at home

TORONTO -- Scott Richmond wasn't sure if he was supposed to doff his cap or not, but the Blue Jays rookie couldn't help himself. It had been a long, unique journey to the big leagues for the pitcher, and he wanted to cherish the moment.

During the sixth inning on Wednesday, Richmond strolled off the mound at Rogers Centre and received a warm standing ovation from those in attendance. Just before reaching Toronto's dugout, Richmond removed his hat and waved to the crowd, showing his appreciation.

The end result probably wasn't part of Richmond's dream, absorbing a hard-luck loss in a 3-2 defeat against the Tampa Bay Rays, but it was a memorable afternoon nonetheless. Richmond -- a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia -- made his Major League debut for Toronto in front of a host of family and friends.

Adding to the occasion was the presence of Team Canada, which is bound for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. Richmond was supposed to eventually be boarding the long flight with them to China -- that was before he received the call to start for the Blue Jays. Had Toronto's offense not reverted to some bad habits, Richmond might've earned the win.

That didn't stop Richmond from enjoying the day's happenings, especially the crowd's reaction when he walked off the mound.

"When I came off, those are my moments to absorb what's going on," Richmond said. "Usually, I have my head down, but it's a big day, so I wanted to make sure I was looking around a little bit and soaking it all up.

"I didn't know if I was supposed to tip the hat or not, but I had a lot of family members there who sacrificed a lot of things. And Team Canada was there, and in Canada. It was a big day for me, so I just wanted to let them all know I really appreciated it."

On another day, Richmond's performance might've been enough to earn a victory for the Blue Jays (54-54), who had their run of five straight series wins at home snapped. The 28-year-old right-hander limited Tampa Bay (63-44) to three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and issuing no walks over his 92-pitch effort.

"I didn't know if I was supposed to tip the hat or not, but I had a lot of family members there who sacrificed a lot of things. And Team Canada was there, and in Canada. It was a big day for me, so I just wanted to let them all know I really appreciated it."
-- Scott Richmond

"If he pitches like that all the time," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said, "it certainly gives us a chance to win a ballgame. We had a chance today."

Carl Crawford tripled home a run in the first inning for the Rays and Carlos Pena highlighted a two-run showing in the fourth with a leadoff solo home run. Pena's blast put Toronto behind, 3-2, which proved to be too large of a gap to overcome in light of the Jays' missteps with runners on base.

Toronto received a two-run homer from Lyle Overbay in the first inning, but that's where the scoring stopped. The Jays churned out five of their nine hits with two outs and finished with four extra-base hits, including a pair of triples, but left the ballgame 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and 2-for-14 with runners on base.

"Once again, it's the same old thing that's been going on here all year," Gaston said. "Guys are on third base and we can't get them in with less than two outs. A couple of times there was nobody out and we still couldn't get a run across the plate."

That led to a tough loss for Richmond (0-1), who "deserves another start," according to Gaston. Richmond, who became just the 14th Canadian-born player to don a Toronto uniform, was signed by the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent in the offseason, after spending the past three years with the independent league's Edmonton club.

Prior to pitching for Edmonton, Richmond suited up for a pair of junior colleges in the United States, and also pitched for Oklahoma State. During his first three years out of high school, the 6-foot-5 Richmond worked in the shipyards in Vancouver, cleaning rust off the hulls of barges.

Richmond, who posted a 2.53 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Syracuse this year, believes his experience helped in keeping the all-too-common rookie jitters in check against the Rays. He added that spending the past two games around the Jays gave him time to prepare himself emotionally for his outing.

"It's been a long road," Richmond said. "I'm happy that I'm 28 doing this, instead of 22, because I can keep it under control a lot more. I've been through a lot of hard roads and it's all paid off. There's no time to be nervous."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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