Straight To The Show
After pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning of his major league debut, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake settled down and pitched seven innings, allowing only one run against the Chicago Cubs. Leakeâ€™s debut was a unique one; not only was it his major league debut, but the game doubled as his professional baseball debut, as he became the 21st player in major league history to be drafted and skip the minor leagues en route to a major league debut. In honour of Leake, here are the other players who did the deed before him since 1978 and how they fared in their first big league game:
Xavier Nady â€“ Debuted: September 30th, 2000 with the San Diego Padres (1-for-1, R)
Nady, a 2nd round pick by San Diego in 2000, made his big league debut as a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He singled off Dodger reliever Onan Masaoka and later scored on a Damian Jackson double. Nady was later sent to the minor leagues and would not return to the majors until the 2003 season.
Ariel Prieto â€“ Debuted: July 2nd, 1995 with the Oakland Athletics (2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 SO)
Originally from Cuba, Prieto moved to Puerto Rico soon after graduating from college, therefore making himself eligible for the major league draft. A month after being taken fifth overall by the Athletics, Prieto made his professional baseball debut in the eighth inning of a game that saw the California Angels beat the Aâ€™s by a score of 7-0. Prieto hit the first batter he saw, Damian Easley, but no other Angel would reach base in the two scoreless innings the right-hander would pitch. Tony Phillips also became Prietoâ€™s first big league strikeout victim in the eighth inning.
Darren Dreifort â€“ Debuted: April 7th, 1994 with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H)
After the Seattle Mariners selected Alex Rodriguez with the first overall pick in 1993, the Los Angeles Dodgers were happy to select Dreifort, the â€™93 NCAA Player of the Year at Wichita State. Dreifort didnâ€™t sign until after the â€™93 season and subsequently made the major league roster for 1994 Opening Day. He made his debut in the 9th inning in relief of Dodger starter Ramon Martinez, with the Dodgers down 1-0 to the Florida Marlins. He retired the first and only three hitters he would see in his debut on groundouts (Orestes Destrade, Jeff Conine, Bret Barberie), but Los Angeles could not mount a comeback in the bottom half of the inning, losing by a single run.
John Olerud â€“ Debuted: September 3rd, 1989 with the Toronto Blue Jays (1-for-1, R)
A third-round pick out of Washington State University, Olerud was called upon to make his big league debut by Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston as a defensive replacement for Fred McGriff in the ninth inning of a game that saw the Minnesota Twins beat the Jays 9-1. He led off the ninth and collected his first major league hit on an infield single off German Gonzalez. He later came around to score on a Nelson Liriano single in the inning but the run made no difference, as the Jays would still end up on the losing end, 9-4.
Jim Abbott â€“ Debuted: April 8th, 1989 with the California Angels (4.2 IP, 3 ER, L)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 1985, Abbott elected not to sign with Toronto and instead began what would become a successful three year stint at the University of Michigan. Abbott was drafted by the Angels in 1988 and would break camp with the team in 1989, making it into the teamâ€™s starting rotation. He made his debut on April 8th at home against the Seattle Mariners and it was a rough start for Abbott, who gave up singles to the first two batters he faced (both later scoring in the inning).
He settled down and pitched scoreless innings in the second, third, and fourth but in the fifth inning, the floodgates opened and Abbott would not be able to get out of the inning. He surrendered four runs in the inning, albeit three of the runs were unearned, before giving way to reliever Dan Petry with two outs. California ended up losing 7-0 to the Mariners. Abbott would pick up his first major league win two starts later, pitching six innings at home in a win against Baltimore.
Pete Incaviglia â€“ Debuted: April 7th, 1986 with the Texas Rangers (1-for-4, R, 2 SO)
In three seasons at Oklahoma State, Incaviglia became one of the most decorated power hitters in the history of college baseball, slugging 100 home runs in just 213 games. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos with the 8th overall pick in 1985 but refused to play a game in the minor leagues, forcing the Expos to either start him with the big-league club or trade him to a team that would play him instantly. Montreal management chose the latter, shipping him to Texas in the off-season. Because of this, Major League Baseball implemented a rule in which a team cannot trade a player within a year of drafting them, a rule affectionately called the â€œPete Incaviglia Rule.â€
He debuted on Opening Day of 1986, batting fourth and playing right field for the Rangers. Against Toronto Blue Jaysâ€™ starter Dave Stieb, he struck out in the first inning but collected his first hit in the fifth, a double to center field. He scored that inning on a Larry Parrish home run that would give Texas a 6-0 lead. He would not collect a hit in two tries against Blue Jay reliever Mark Eichhorn, although the Rangers would hang on for a 6-3 victory.
Brian Milner â€“ Debuted: June 23rd, 1978 with the Toronto Blue Jays (1-for-4, SO)
Selected in the seventh round of the 1978 Draft, Milner, a catcher out of Southwest High School in Fort Worth, TX, signed and debuted with the Jays almost immediately. At eighteen years old and seven months, Milner still remains the youngest player ever to suit up for Toronto. Milner grounded out in his first two at-bats and was called out on strikes in the seventh. He recorded his first hit off of Clevelandâ€™s Rick Waits in his final at-bat in the ninth. Milner played one more game for Toronto before being sent down to the minors for seasoning, but he suffered serious injuries and never got back to the major leagues.
Tim Conroy â€“ Debuted: June 23rd, 1978 with the Oakland Athletics (3.1 IP, 1 ER)
On the same day Milner debuted, another high schooler made his professional debut in the majors, this time a pitcher with the Oakland Aâ€™s. Conroy, a left-hander from Gateway High School in Monroeville, PA, made his debut as a starter in Kansas City. He lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up only one run but surrendering two hits and five walks over his start, earning a no-decision in a 5-4 Royals win. Conroy made one more start before being sent down to the minor leagues and reappearing with Oakland in 1982.
Bob Horner â€“ Debuted: June 16th, 1978 with the Atlanta Braves (1-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI)
Horner was the first overall pick in the 1978 Draft and the Atlanta Braves wasted no time getting the Arizona State product into their clubhouse. A former NCAA Player of the Year, Horner grounded out in his first at-bat in the second inning. However, in his next at-bat, he smashed his first hit over the outfield fence, a two-run shot off of Bert Blyleven. The third baseman failed to collect a hit in his final two at-bats but certainly, Horner started off with a bang. Horner stayed in the majors for the remainder of the season and would end up winning the National Leagueâ€™s Rookie of the Year award.
Mike Morgan â€“ Debuted: June 11th, 1978 with the Oakland Athletics (9.0 IP, 2 ER, L)
In addition to Conroy, the Athletics debuted another high school pitcher in June of 1978. Morgan, a right-hander out of Las Vegas, was picked fourth overall in 1978 and debuted against the Baltimore Orioles as a starting pitcher. He started shaky, allowing the first two batters to reach base but only allowed one run in the first inning. However, Morgan pieced together an impressive debut, going the distance, despite taking the loss in a 3-0 game. He allowed three runs (one unearned), ten hits, and five walks. He pitched two more games with Oakland before being sent to the minors, but came back up with Oakland in 1979.