Feature Photo: Albert Suarez, RHP, Giants
(with Angels in 2015)
My daughter actually commented to me recently that after reading my column here, she was surprised by how many players making their big league debuts were actually younger than she is (to make you do a little homework, there is only one player on a 40-man roster who shares her exact birthday – Astros pitcher Juan Minaya – so I am looking forward to his eventual debut as someone who will be neither older nor younger than my daughter).
I actually had the opposite perspective when reviewing the ages of our debutantes, seeing that of the 58 players who have debuted, 37 were in fact younger, 21 were still older than she is (and I can’t help but be especially thrilled for the older players).
But even more surprising to me? The fact that my daughter actually reads this column unbidden (she is not really a baseball fan – okay, make that she is not a baseball fan, period). I think it’s the latter. So, if she’s reading this, hi there, you!
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Anyway, back to business: Coming into Week Five of our “Les Debutantes” series, we here at 2080 found an interesting streak on the line (I wish I could say I was the one that noticed, but one of my intrepid colleagues brought it up): When Cincinnati Reds RHP Tim Adleman made his debut Sunday night to wrap up last week’s package, he became the 55th player to make his big league debut this season — and the 18th pitcher in a row to do so.
With no one technically ‘on deck’ at that point (my term for players who have been called up but have not yet gotten into a game) I’m guessing that even Las Vegas probably didn’t have an option to try to predict when that streak would be snapped and who would snap it.
For those of you who might have contacted your friendly local connection from “Lost Wages” and had them put a few dollars on Yankees outfielder Ben Gamel before Cinco de Mayo, hope you’re planning a nice Caribbean vacation with your winnings.
This week’s teeny-tiny bumper crop of three brings our season tally to 58 – 40 pitchers and 18 position players. It does not, however, include the two players — Blue Jays infielder Andy Burns and Twins southpaw Pat Dean — who were called up in the last few days but have not yet debuted, nor does it include the four individuals who were called up, got that first tiny taste of big league life, only to either be sent back down or placed on the DL without having gotten into a game — here’s hoping that we will see all of those four — pitcher Michael Ynoa and catcher Kevan Smith (White Sox), pitcher Joel De La Cruz (Braves) and pitcher Layne Somsen (Reds) — get into games for real by the end of 2016. After all, I’ve already written up their pages!
For next week’s column, I’ll give you a first-quarter breakdown by teams. Until then, here’s trio of individuals whose lives changed this week.
American League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Via trade from the Chicago White Sox along with LHP Zack Erwin for 3B Brett Lawrie on December 9, 2015. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Middle Georgia Junior College).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 10 games at Nashville (Triple-A), striking out 20 in 11 innings, walking just four while allowing 14 hits.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Nashville May 8 when RHP Jesse Hahn was sent down.
DEBUT: May 8, in an 11-3 loss to the Orioles. The fourth of five pitchers (with the fifth being C Josh Phegley, who was making his first-ever big league appearance on the mound), Wendelken allowed four runs, all earned, on four hits in an inning and a third, walking one and striking out two. All four runs came on an eighth-inning grand slam by Manny Machado. Wendelken came on in relief of Marc Rzepczynski to start the seventh inning and, after giving up a single to Adam Jones on the first major league pitch he threw, he retired the next three batters to retire the side. In the eighth, he gave up a leadoff single to right field by Jonathan Schoop, walked Ryan Flaherty and then issued a single to left by Joey Rickard to load the bases. Machado worked a full count before homering to center. Wendelken did stay in the game to get the next batter, Chris Davis, looking at a called strike three before Phegley came in to finish things up.
PLAYER NOTES: In between being drafted by the Red Sox in 2012 and joining the A’s organization this past offseason, Wendelken was part of a massive three-team, seven-player deal among the Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers back on July 30, 2013. Just for fun, here’s a recap (deep breath, please): The Red Sox sent Wendelken, RHP Frankie Montas and SS Cleuluis Rondon to the White Sox and SS Jose Iglesias to the Tigers; the White Sox sent RHP Jake Peavy to the Red Sox; the Tigers sent OF Avisail Garcia to the White Sox; and the Tigers sent RHP Brayan Villareal to the Red Sox. There will be a test on this later!
Wendelken has spent most of his career as a reliever, where his plus changeup and fastball in the low 90s but limited stamina fits well, though he did work as a starter all of 2014 at Winston-Salem (High A, White Sox), going 7-10 with a 5.25 ERA in 27 starts, allowing 181 hits in 146 innings and walking just 33 while fanning 129. More recently, he split the 2015 campaign between Birmingham (Double-A) and Charlotte (Triple-A), combining to go 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 39 games, collecting five saves and striking out 56 while walking 11 and allowing 36 hits in 43 innings. In his four-plus seasons, his hits-to-innings-pitched has been okay (335:315.2) but his walks-to-strikeouts has been more impressive (84:324).
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Bishop Kenny H.S., Jacksonville, Fla.).
CURRENT SEASON STATS: Batting .286 with one homer, nine RBIs and seven steals in 23 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A) along with two doubles and a triple.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre May 5 when LHP James Pazos was sent down.
DEBUT: May 6, in a 3-2 win over the Red Sox. A late-game defensive entry in right field, Gamel did not have a plate appearance. He came on in the top of the eighth inning to replace Dustin Ackley, and recorded a defensive out on the first batter of the inning, David Ortiz, who lined out to right.
PLAYER NOTES: Gamel’s debut on May 6 snapped the streak of 18 pitchers in a row to debut, becoming the first position player to make his big league debut since Red Sox infielder Marco Hernandez on April 17. The younger brother of former big leaguer Mat Gamel, who saw time with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2008-12, Gamel’s promotion was to give the Yankees some reliable options as outfielder Brett Gardner recovers from being hit with a pitch. He comes off a 2015 campaign where he hit .300 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 10 homers, 64 RBIs and 13 steals along with 28 doubles and 14 triples, for a .358 OBP and a .472 SLG. A career .284 hitter in six-plus seasons, he has seen time at all three outfield spots, and while he doesn’t have one standout tool, neither does he have any glaring flaws in his game.
National League Debuts
ACQUIRED: Signed as a minor league free agent November 18, 2015. Originally signed by the Devil Rays (so named at the time!) as an international free agent (Venezuela) on July 2, 2006.
CURRENT SEASON STATS: 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA in five games (three starts) at Sacramento (Triple-A), striking out 15 and walking seven while allowing 24 hits in 25 innings.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Sacramento May 6 when RHP Vin Mazzaro was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: May 8, in a 2-0 loss to the Rockies. The last of three pitchers, Suarez pitched the ninth inning, allowing one hit. After taking the first batter he faced, D.J. LeMahieu, to a full count after falling behind 3-0, LeMahieu singled to left field, but was erased when Ben Paulsen grounded into a double play. Dustin Garneau appeared to keep things alive for the Rockies in the inning when he was called safe on a throwing error by third baseman Matt Duffy, but the Giants appealed the call and it was overturned, ending the inning, and ending Suarez’s scoreless debut.
PLAYER NOTES: Suarez brings a sparkling 3.37 career ERA into his seemingly overdue big league debut, having posted an ERA over 4.00 only once in his eight-plus pro seasons, that coming in 2012 when he had a 4.08 ERA for the Charlotte Stone Crabs (High A) in the Florida State League. While 103 of his 109 career appearances have been in a starting role, he’ll be used out of the bullpen in San Francisco, at least for the time being. After spending most of his career with the Rays, who signed him as a 16-year-old back in 2006, Suarez spent the 2015 season as a free agent signee in the Angels’ organization, going 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA in 27 starts at Arkansas (Double-A), striking out 121 in 163 innings while walking 40 and allowing 142 hits.