PHOENIX -- In his first two Major League appearances, Sam Demel pitched so well when the D-backs faced a deficit -- four runs on June 16 and seven runs on Tuesday -- that he may enter the game when his club holds a lead. And with Arizona's bullpen ERA inflating to a Major League-high 7.15 entering Wednesday, that first opportunity could come sooner rather than later.
As if on cue, Demel entered Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees with the score tied at 4 in the sixth. He induced an inning-ending double play, and after Arizona grabbed a 5-4 lead, he pitched a scoreless seventh. He would have secured his first Major League win had it not been for the Yankees' late-inning comeback.
"That's as difficult a situation as he's been in here for three outings," said manager A.J. Hinch, plucking what seemed to be the lone positive out of a gripping 6-5 defeat. "Coming in and getting the double-play ball was excellent. Going back out and dominating [Nos. 2-4 in the order] with the strikeouts is very impressive, so I'm glad he's building confidence and getting that under his belt, because he's going to be asked to get some important outs here moving forward."
Demel, however, plays the role of content but coy rookie.
"It's the same job, whether it's late in the game, early in the game or the score is lopsided, one way or the other," the 24-year-old right-hander said, straight-faced.
Demel added that -- despite his 42 career Minor League saves indicating he was called upon in late innings -- his Minor League coaches in the Oakland Athletics organization made a concerted effort to vary the game situations he inherited. Demel pitched as early the fifth inning.
That appears to be paying off. Demel, who was sent to Arizona in a June 15 swap for Conor Jackson, has pitched two perfect innings against the Boston Red Sox and now the New York Yankees. Quite the Major League indoctrination.
"Two good teams to start against," Demel said. "They have two of the best lineups in baseball. It's good to start at the top."
Demel added that as an unseen hurler, he has a temporary advantage against the opposition. His mystery helped him retire big-name bats like the Red Sox's J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre, as well as the Yanks' Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira.
"The main thing is, it's not the first time you face guys," Demel said. "It's the second, third, fourth, fifth -- after they've seen me a few times. And that's when the adjustment period starts for me."