BOSTON -- By Red Sox manager John Farrell's own admission, the circumstances surrounding Drake Britton's Major League debut could have been easier.
With runners on first and second, no outs in the ninth inning and his parents in the stands, the 24-year-old lefty reliever entered Saturday's game with Boston trailing the rival Yankees, 4-2.
"I was a little bit nervous -- my heart rate was up," said Britton, the Red Sox's No. 11 prospect. "Once I got out there, I just tried to breathe."
Undoubtedly adding to the anxiety was the part of the lineup Britton was scheduled to face. Ten-time All Star Ichiro Suzuki was up first, with five-time All Star Robinson Cano looming on deck.
"I just did my best trying to keep it inside to Cano and Ichiro," said Britton, who had just one appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket before being called up. "To be honest, at that point, they were just up there. I was just like, 'Oh, it's Robinson Cano.'"
With a fastball that reached 95 mph, Britton needed just nine pitches -- eight fastballs and one slider -- to retire the Yankees. Ichiro popped out to shortstop Stephen Drew and Cano hit a sacrifice fly to score Luis Cruz, but Britton did his job by retiring the tandem. The last out of the inning came when Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught Brett Gardner trying to steal second.
"He did a very good job," Farrell said of Britton. "That wasn't the ideal situation to make your debut in or how you draw it up. In that left-handed spot, he threw strikes. He's got a quick arm. He kept the emotion in that first setting and first experience well under control."
Though it came in a 5-2 loss, the performance was a positive first impression for Britton. Having lost three relievers -- Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller and Joel Hanrahan -- for the rest of the season, the Boston bullpen needs help, and general manager Ben Cherington said he'd prefer if that help came from within the organization.
If Britton or other new arrivals like Jose De La Torre and Pedro Beato can prove themselves as worthy replacements, Cherington won't have to go shopping before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
One game certainly won't be the determining factor for Britton, but it was an encouraging start, Farrell said.
"He's got one Major League appearance," Farrell said. "He showed good stuff. He's here now, so he's going to get opportunities."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less