Feature Photo: Austin Slater, RF, Giants
He debuts, he debuts-not.
We here at The Debutantes Ball prefer debuts to debut-nots, but the latter do come up occasionally. Most of the time, happily, said players will indeed get a return call-up. And, with Week 9 in the books and the calendar page now flipped to June, we had our fourth and fifth debut-nots of the season (called up, but not inserted into the lineup) as well as the first return among the season’s initial three debut-nots who actually got some game action.
One of the real headscratchers among this week’s debut-nots was the seemingly overdue arrival – and hasty dispatch – of Mariners right-hander Ryne Harper. On paper, aside from the name that totally pegs him as a new generation of players whose parents clearly were baseball fans (see FUN FACT below), he certainly seemed to have the curriculum vitae to earn the promotion. I’m not the only person who holds that opinion. Ben Thoen wrote this excellent piece about Harper for SBNation’s Mariners blog, Lookout Landing:
But after being brought up on May 28 when right-handed reliever Rob Whalen was sent down, Harper had, as we say, “the best seat in the house” to watch games the next three nights, and never got into a game despite the fact that the Mariners ran through seven pitchers on May 29 and another five on May 30. But, alas, on May 31, he was sent back to Tacoma to clear a spot for left-hander James Paxton, who returned from the 10-day DL.
The debut-not bell also tolled pretty clearly for Cincinnati right-handed reliever Jackson Stephens when, having been grabbing pine for four nights in a row since his recall from Louisville on May 30, he didn’t even get into a June 3 game when the Reds ran through seven pitchers. Sure enough, on June 4 he was sent back to the minors to clear space for returning rookie extraordinaire Amir Garrett (LHP) from the DL.
So we clear special spots for Harper’s and Stephens’ pages in our sparkly silver loose-leaf notebook (seriously, I’m not kidding … I need to be able to find it quickly) where they join fellow 2017 debut-nots Paul Fry, a left-handed reliever for the Orioles, and Reyes Moronta, a right-handed reliever for the Giants.
Some room was made in said book, though, thanks to the return of one of our other debut-nots from earlier this season, Phillies right-handed starter Ben Lively. After spending a few days up in mid-April without getting into a game, he returned to the big leagues on June 3 and the punster gods of baseball allowed me to revive the line I’d wanted to use back in mid-April when it appeared that both he and another Phillies deb, pitcher Mark Leiter Jr., would share debut honors that week … I was totally ready to reference “Leit and Lively.” Instead, Lively came up to take Leiter’s place on the 25-man roster when the latter was sent down. Not quite as much of a situation calling for witty puns. Sorry, Leit.
FUN FACT: There have been three MLB players to bear the first name Ryne. The first was three-time All-Star pitcher Ryne Duren, who played from 1954 until 1965 for seven teams. It was for him that the second Ryne, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg (Phillies, Cubs, 1981-1997), was named. (The third is Rays righty Ryne Stanek, who made his debut on May 14 and remains with the club).
But with all due respect to Duren, it’s a pretty safe bet that the other 19 PLAYERS in MLB and minor league history named Ryne (including those who had it as a middle name) were named for Sandberg.
A little breakdown for you:
There have been 12 players (including Stanek and the aforementioned Harper) listed in Baseball Reference with the given first name Ryne that have played in affiliated baseball. There have been another five whose middle names were Ryne but who went by Ryne professionally. And there have been another two who had the middle name of Ryne and use their given first names, both of whom, coincidentally are named Patrick Ryne – Pat Valaika (3B, Rockies), and Patrick Palmeiro (3B, Orioles), the son of Rafael Palmeiro (1B, Cubs, Orioles, Rangers, 1986-2005) who was Sandberg’s teammate with the Cubs.
It is probably no coincidence that ALL 19 of these players were born between 1985 and 1994, during Sandberg’s active playing career.
PS: With a top prospect in next week’s MLB First-Year Player Draft named Jeter Downs (Monsignor Pace H.S., Miami, FL), I think we know what the NEXT trend will be.
Overall, Week 9 saw us welcome 10 new players to the ranks of minted major leaguers, bringing our season total thus far to 90, including 35 in the month of May.
(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.)