Feature Photo: Cody Bellinger, LF, Dodgers
So, how many of you folks read the transaction wire on April 18, saw that the Phillies had purchased the contract of “RHP Mark Leiter” and thought to yourselves, “Jeez, I thought he’d retired a long time ago!”
Raise your hands. Go ahead. Don’t be embarrassed. I am typing this with one hand because the other one is raised. Fortunately, a second transaction column clarified by listing him as “Mark Leiter, Jr.”
As it was, poor Leiter went down what I now call the “Dylan Covey (RHP, White Sox) road,” sitting there with the Phillies waiting to get into a game for 11 DAYS before finally making his debut right under this week’s wire on April 28.
And then, to make things even more fun, at least for two days, the Phillies called up another deb pitcher, RHP Ben Lively, when right-handed reliever Pat Neshek went on paternity leave. So for two days the Phillies’ bullpen featured the duo of “Leit and Lively,” at least until Neshek returned and Lively returned to the minors with “debut-not” status but a page waiting for him in my sparkly silver loose-leaf notebook (as does a page for this week’s other “debut-not,” Orioles crafty southpaw reliever Paul Fry).
And, may I add, mere hours before his brief promotion, Lively had tweeted out his congratulations to Leiter for his call-up. Truly well-suited for the City of Brotherly Love. You can read a great article from the Philly Voice by Ryan Lawrence about this double-dip call-up .
But after that super-slow week, Week 5 of our Debutantes Ball started off with a bang, as four players debuted that Monday night and the hits just kept on coming.
It started with those four call-ups. Leiter was not among them (yet), since the Phillies had the night off, but 21-year-old Giants infield phenom Christian Arroyo was. However, the call-up was just unexpected enough (plus side: he was hitting .446 at Triple-A Sacramento; minus side: HE’S 21 YEARS OLD!) that he had a very hard time convincing his mom that he was going to The Show, as described to perfection in this MLB.com Cut 4 article:
The West Coast had more reason to rejoice, not to mention adding in a little “top prospect rivalry” to boot, when the Dodgers brought up first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger a day later. Now you can spice up your age-old Dodgers-Giants debate by watching to see which of these two exciting young players, both pretty much considered “can’t miss” prospects, has the better season.
We can also give thanks that Tampa Bay’s Taiwanese prospect Chih-Wei Hu, who debuted on April 24, is a right-handed pitcher and not a corner infielder. And if I have to explain the punchline to that joke, then you’re just not paying attention or else you’re REALLY young.
We definitely had one of the – if not THE – hardest to spell showdowns on April 24, when newly arrived (and the first-ever Lithuanian in the majors) right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas faced the Cubs’ Matt Szczur at the plate in his debut. Glad I was not on the mike for that one.
And as long as we’re talking about the unpronounceables, I was saddened that we didn’t get to see both Neverauskas AND his organization mate and friend, Pirates shortstop Gift Ngoepe up at the same time, but Neverauskas was sent back to the minors on April 26 to clear space for Ngoepe, the first African player in the majors (his full given name is Mpho’ Gift Ngoepe, but Mpho’ also translates to Gift … and Ngoepe is pronounced en-WEE-pay).
And because I’m linking away like a madwoman this week, a few MUST READS about Ngoepe’s story and that of his younger brother and fellow Pirates prospect Victor Ngoepe, both by the hard-working Adam Berry at mlb.com, here and here.
Perhaps the best debut of the week came and went so quickly that before we could even rave about it, the pitcher was back in the minors to make room for another fresh reliever. But no worries, Ariel Hernandez. After your two perfect innings and five strikeouts and the radar guns flashing triple digits on that fastball, I am sure you will be back soon – and back to stay – in Cincinnati before long.
But the transaction wire was burning up, folks, and your humble scribe lost a few pounds (thank you!) just trying to keep up with the action. By week’s end, 12 new players had debuted, bringing our final April tally to an even 50. To give you some kind of context, in 2016, we had 54 (out of an eventual 258) players debut in April. T.S. Eliot called April “the cruellest (sic) month” in his Wasteland, but obviously there are 50 baseball players in this past month alone who would disagree with that assessment.
And now, on to the ball. Let’s dance.
(Reminder! The MLB Debut table is also found by clicking the Spotlights Tab on our home page, and scrolling to the top sub-menu selection.)