ARLINGTON, Texas -- Justin Grimm was nine years old, a first-year pitcher for his little league team in Bristol, Va., when Jimmy Gobble made an appearance at one of his games. Gobble, a pitcher and favorite son of this small town on the Virginia-Tennessee state line, had just been drafted into the major leagues. As kids surrounded Gobble, asking him for autographs, Grimm looked to his parents and simply said: "I want to be that some day."
Saturday, Grimm's childhood dream comes true. He's slated to make his big league debut against the Houston Astros at 6:15 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW. The 23-year-old right-hander will face right-hander Lucas Harrell (6-4, 4.83) in front of a sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"It's just very overwhelming," Grimm said. "I'm excited to be here and ready for the opportunity. I'm just going to take it a day at a time and try to learn as much as I can from Mike [Maddux] and continue to develop."
Grimm has an 8-3 record at Double-A Frisco this season, posting a 1.87 ERA. He's struck out 67 batters and issued 14 walks in 77 innings (13 starts). Opposing batters are hitting .228 against him.
Grimm describes himself as a power pitcher with a good fastball, a slurve -- a combination between a curve and slider -- and a changeup that he is continuing to develop. He said he's matured as a pitcher since joining the Rangers organization as a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Georgia.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t see myself possibly reaching the big leagues this year," Grimm said. "Once I got into professional ball, I just showed up with the attitude everyday of: ‘What can I learn today?' So I feel like that’s a big part of how I’ve come so far in such a short time.”
Grimm received the news of his promotion a few days ago. He said his coach, Steve Buechele, called him into his office before a game to congratulate him on being selected for the Texas League All-Star team. Before Grimm left the office to say goodbye to his visiting family, Buechele told him to make sure to get them tickets to Arlington because he would be pitching Saturday.
"My jaw just dropped," Grimm said. "My heart started beating a little fast, knees started shaking. But that’s good. I want that feeling. That’s something that I’m never going to forget."
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he was confident that the move to call up Grimm was the right decision.
"We felt overall, putting together our bullpen and our starting options, that Justin was most ready to help us win a ballgame and step into this role," Daniels said. "I think the developmental staff has done a real nice job with him."
Fellow rookie Robbie Ross was particularly excited to hear the news of Grimm's promotion. Ross and Grimm have the same agent and the two grew close as teammates in the minors.
"I'm fired up for him," Ross said. "It's going to be sweet. I hope he can come in here and enjoy it and not let any pressure get to him. I'm just excited for him."
Grimm is ready to enjoy the ride and doesn't want to put any added pressure on himself. He's already had a chat with manager Ron Washington.
"He said, 'You know, it's the same pitches in Double-A ball and here. You make the pitch, you have success. If you don't, they're going to hit the mistakes,'" Grimm said. "I feel like if I can make my pitches, I'll be all right."
Grimm's chance to make his pitches in the big leagues has finally come and his parents and sister will be in attendance. Grimm said his brother is disappointed because he is the best man in a wedding and has to miss his brother's first start.
"I just told him not to worry about it," Grimm said. "I know he's pretty upset, but hopefully there will be more coming for him to come see."
The Rangers hope Grimm is right. If he is, the club may have found a reliable starting option to help a pitching staff that is short-handed.