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Casey Coleman is the first former Florida Gulf Coast University Eagle to land in the major leagues.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Cape Coral Mariner grad who started three seasons at FGCU -- shortstop, second base, third base, pitcher -- and was drafted in the 15th round by the Chicago Cubs in 2008 was 10-7 with a 4.07 earned run average and 59 strikeouts against 35 walks for Triple-A Iowa this season.
Coleman's father and paternal grandfather, both named Joe, also pitched in the major leagues. Coleman's call-up makes his family the first-ever to send three pitchers to the Bigs. The Colemans are the third family to send three players to the major leagues.
Coleman, who found out about the call-up after Iowa's 4 p.m. game against Oklahoma City on Sunday, arrived in Chicago a little after 10:00 Monday morning. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has been away from the club to attend a funeral but is expected back in Chicago on Tuesday. Coleman was on his way to meet with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Monday. He was slated to pitch for Iowa tonight, when the Cubs host Milwaukee.
"I'm ready to get after it," Coleman said. "I don't really know my role yet but it could be in relief in the next few days because they're pretty short on relief."
Coleman was immediately put to work Monday night, but didn't fare well in his big-league debut. In the Cubs' 18-1 blowout loss to Milwaukee, Coleman entered the game in the sixth inning. He was charged with six runs, all earned, on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings. All eight hits allowed were singles.
Although the major leagues is old-hat to the Colemans and word of his impending call up had been spreading, reality had not quite set in for Coleman as of Monday morning.
"Well, kind of," Coleman said. "I've been getting a lot of texts and calls from family and friends. It'll probably hit me more once I get to the field and have all the players around me at Wrigley Field. It's hit me, and I know what I'm in for, and it's exciting. I'm sure it will definitely hit me more once I get there."
Coleman, who was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 49th round in 2005, called FGCU coach Dave Tollett late Sunday night with the news.
"I knew it had to be good news because he's never going to call that late," Tollett said. "He was excited. He really didn't know a lot. He just knew he was going to the show.
"I'm excited for him. It's been a dream for him. I think this might be the first time for three generations (of the same family to play in the Bigs)."
The Cubs need relievers but the move also might have been made because Cubs starter Carlos Silva was pulled during the first inning of Sunday's 8-7 loss at Colorado because of an abnormal heart rate. He stayed overnight for evaluations. In his last four starts, Silva has lasted just a combined 7 2/3 innings while allowing 20 hits and 14 earned runs.
Former Cub Ryne Sandberg, Coleman's coach at Iowa, is projected as a strong candidate to replace Pinella, who is stepping down at the end of this season. At 46-59, the Cubs are 13 games behind St. Louis in the National League Central.
Tollett said he's not surprised Coleman already has made it this far.
"Not really," Tollett said. "Once he was able to just concentrate on pitching, he just took off. He was a great pitcher for us, but he also had to play shortstop, second and third."
Former Eagle Chris Sale, the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year who was drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox in June, already is at Triple-A Charlotte, where he has a 2.84 ERA and 15 strikeouts against four walks and three hits in seven relief appearances. Tollett and longtime assistant Rusty McKee thought Sale might be the first FGCU product to make the big leagues.
"It's funny, I called Rusty -- Casey tried to call Rusty -- on the road last night and said, 'Hey, we've got our first big-leaguer,'" Tollett said. "Rusty goes, 'Really, they moved him up already?' I said, 'I think you're talking about the wrong one.' He said, 'Who are you talking about?' I go, 'Casey!' He goes, 'That's awesome!'
"If we could get two this year, that would be really great. I told Casey, 'Next year, you make that (starting) rotation in the spring and Chris makes that rotation ... ' And he goes, 'Boy, wouldn't that be great ... can you imagine if we got to pitch against each other?'"
Connect with Dana Caldwell at www.naplesnews.com/staff/Dana_Caldwell