Ferguson: Looking back at Jays' Major League pitching debuts

Scott Ferguson
5/27/2013 11:15:12 AM
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Watching rookie Sean Nolin get roughed up by Baltimore on Friday night and subsequently get optioned back to Double 'A' New Hampshire, I wondered about the Major League debuts of the rest of the Jays starters. Truth be told, there was only one that really stuck out. We'll save that one for last.

R.A. Dickey's first Major League appearnance was on April 22, 2001. This was well before he even considered throwing the knuckleball for a living. R.A. got one mop-up inning of relief for Texas in a blowout 11-2 home win over Oakland. It was a three-up , three-down affair. The most interesting thing is the catcher for the A's that day was Sal Fasano, who is currently the Blue Jays roving minor league catching instructor.

Lefty Mark Buehrle made his debut on July 16, 2000. He gave up one run in one inning of relief to Milwaukee. His first start three days later was far more impressive. Buehrle pitched seven innings against the Twins, giving up two runs on six hits and picking up the victory.

Lefty J.A. Happ could commiserate with Nolin. Fresh off a call-up from the Ottawa Lynx of the International League on June 30, 2007, Happ got knocked around by the New York Mets. He only lasted four innings, giving up five runs, three of which were earned. He was sent back down by the Phillies after that game and wasn't called up for the rest of the season.

Like Dickey, Josh Johnson debuted with a scoreless inning of relief on September 10, 2005. One year later, he was part of an historic rookie rotation with Florida. Johnson, along with Anibal Sanchez, Scott Olsen and Ricky Nolasco became the first rookie quartet in Major League history to rack up at least 10 wins apiece in one season.

Brandon Morrow was the 5th pick overall in the 2006 draft by Seattle. He began his Mariners career less than a year later on April 3, 2007 versus Oakland. He pitched a scoreless inning of relief. He didn't make his first career start until the final month of the 2008 campaign on September 5 to be exact against the Yankees. Morrow was spectacular, pitching seven and two-thirds no-hit innings before Wilson Betemit broke it up. The Mariners won 3-1 and Morrow came within four outs of becoming just the second pitcher ever to throw a no-no in his first Major League start.

Then you come to Ricky Romero. The lefthander made his first Major League appearance and start on April 9, 2009 versus Detroit and righthander Rick Porcello. They became the first two top draft picks ever to face each other in their Major League debuts. Romero won the battle, giving up two runs on seven hits over six innings and picking up the victory.

We mentioned R.A Dickey off the top. In 2001, his first season with Texas, he only wound up working four games in relief. He had an 0-1 record with a 6.75 ERA. He gave up three homers in just 12 innings, walked seven and struck out four. He wouldn't get called back up to the big club until 2003. So Sean Nolin can take heart, a first Major League appearance doesn't neccessarily make or break a career. The Blue Jays fully expect he will be back.
Cy Young Battle

It's still a long way to go to the finish line but three young pitchers are at least in the conversation already for the Cy Young Award; two in the National League and one in the American League.

Lefty Matt Moore has certainly picked up the slack for the injured David Price in Tampa Bay. The 23-year-old, who was an 8th round pick in 2007, is 8-0 with a 2.21 earned run average. With a little more run support, Matt Harvey of the Mets would be even better than his 5-0 start with a 1.93 ERA. The 24-year-old righthander was the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Then you have Patrick Corbin, a 23-year-old southpaw with the Arizona Diamondbacks. A second round pick by the Angels in 2009 has the best numbers of all at 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA. The Diamondbacks got him in what now looks like a steal of a trade. The Angels sent Corbin and three others to Arizona on July 25, 2010 for righthander Dan Haren. Haren gave the Halos a couple of decent years, but struggled with back troubles a year ago and ultimately signed with Washington as a free agent. Not only does Arizona have Corbin, another member of that deal, Tyler Skaggs has stepped into the rotation to fill in for Ian Kennedy, who cut his finger washing dishes of all things.

Long Road Ahead
The Blue Jays still have 112 games left to play, and they are only six and a half games back of Cleveland and the second Wild Card slot. Still, they will have to go 69 and 43 the rest of the way to wind up with 90 wins. Even if you believe 87 victories can get you a Wild Card position, the Jays will have to go 66-46 the rest of the way. Not impossible, but quicky becoming improbable.

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