by Lisa Winston
The first “full” week of the 2012 baseball season gave the term “starting nine” another meaning, as nine players made their Major League debuts in that span.
The international feel of the first few days continued, with debutantes hailing from such far-flung locales as Taiwan (two!), Nicaragua, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Paris (okay, Paris, Texas) and Maumelle, Arkansas.
In fact, the number of foreign-born players making their debut was higher than the domestic prospects.
And pitchers totally outnumber position players, 8-1, with the lone hitter making his debut Taiwanese center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin for the Red Sox, and even he only lasted one day, not even getting an at-bat before he was dispatched back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The big name on the docket was, of course, premium pitcher prospect Yu Darvish who took the mound for the Texas Rangers and got the win in a somewhat shaky debut. Is it possible that even the top international sign in recent years could endure some rookie jitters the first time out there? Kinda almost makes him more human, you know?
Meanwhile, there still remains one player who has yet to get a sniff of the mound since Opening Day, Seattle long-reliever Hisashi Iwakuma who is going on 11 days and counting without brushing the dust off his uniform pants. Here’s hoping that the April 23 version of this column will include his debut.
Here is a look at the nine players that debuted between April 9-15:
WEI-YIN CHEN, LHP
|Chen allowed 2 ER in his MLB debut vs the Yankees|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
ACQUIRED: Signed as a free agent Dec. 14, 2011.
PROMOTED: Broke camp with the Orioles out of spring training.
DEBUT: April 10 in a 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees. The starting pitcher, he did not get the decision, allowing four runs, two of them earned, on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out six. He allowed a home run to Derek Jeter to lead off the game and Nick Swisher followed with a double before Chen settled in to retire the next 12 batters.
2012 STATS: Went 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 5 G with 4 BB, 9 K and 19 H in 20 IP, allowing a .244 average during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW WEI-YIN: Chen, a native of Kaohsiung County in Taiwan, is a two-time Olympian (2004 and 2008) for his native country and becomes the first Taiwanese player in Orioles history, but he made his name pitching for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. After posting a 6.16 ERA in 10 games there in his 2005 debut, he did not pitch in the Japanese big leagues again until 2008, but hit his stride upon his return, combining for a 38-30 record and a 2.48 ERA in 117 games in that four-year span, including a 2.68 last summer. He inked a three-year deal with a club option for 2015 in December, giving the Orioles a veteran left-hander to round out a relatively young starting rotation. He brings to the table a fastball that sits in the low 90s which sets up his slurve, and has command of both.
BOSTON RED SOX
CHE-HSUAN LIN, OF
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-0/180. BORN: Sept. 21, 1988.
ACQUIRED: Signed out of Taiwan on June 8, 2007.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket April 14 when OF Jacoby Ellsbury went on the DL with a subluxated shoulder. Was optioned back to Pawtucket the next day.
DEBUT: April 14 in a 13-5 win against Tampa Bay. A late-inning defensive replacement for OF Cody Ross, he came on to play center field and did not come to bat.
2012 STATS: Hitting .150 with 1 HR and 1 RBI in 6 G and 20 AB at Pawtucket. Had hit .091 in 11 AB over 10 G during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW CHE-HSUAN: Though he got some major buzz during the summer of 2008, his first full-season, when his seventh-inning homer was the difference in the World Team’s victory at Yankee Stadium in the All-Star Futures Game, earning him MVP honors, Hsuan’s game is not based on power or offense. Despite his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster, he did not crack Baseball America’s Top 30 prospects list this year, though he got the nod for best outfield arm. The center fielder has solid speed, topping the 20-steal mark each of his four full seasons, but has combined for just a .256 average over five pro campaigns.
LENDY CASTILLO, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-1/170. BORN: April 8, 1989.
ACQUIRED: Taken with the 6th overall pick in the 2011 Major League Rule 5 Draft from the Philadelphia Phillies. Originally signed by the Phillies as a free agent Dec. 31, 2006.
PROMOTED: Broke camp with the Cubs out of spring training.
DEBUT: April 9 in a 7-5 loss to Milwaukee. The third of four pitchers, he allowed one hit in 2/3 of an inning, allowing one run. Starting the eighth inning, his lone run scored on a sac bunt.
2012 STATS: Went 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 11 G, allowing 12 hits in 13 IP, walking 10 and striking out 11 during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW LENDY: Originally signed by the Phillies out of the Dominican Republic as a defensive shortstop with a strong arm, he hit just .239 in his first three pro seasons and was moved to the mound. In 2010, he combined between two rookie-league stops for a 2.35 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 65 innings while walking 26 and limiting hitters to a .211 average. And in 2011, at his lone stop before the majors in a full-season league, he posted a 2.54 ERA in 21 games of relief at Class A Lakewood, striking out 46 batters in as many innings while walking 16 and limiting South Atlantic League hitters to a .220 average. Those quick results, combined with his fastball which sits in the mid-90s and the progress he’s making on his secondary pitches, convinced the Cubs to take a shot on the young man who had not played above the lowest rung of full-season ball. His fastball and his poise in Arizona convinced them to spend an active bullpen spot on him. His upside could keep him around for the long haul, even if that means an eventual trip back to the minors in 2013 for more seasoning. Hey, it worked in a similar situation for Johan Santana.
DREW SMYLY, LHP
B/T: L/L. H/W: 6-3/190. BORN: June 13, 1989.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 2nd round of 2010 out of the University of Arkansas.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo April 12 when OF Clete Thomas was designated for assignment.
DEBUT: April 12 in a 7-2 win against Tampa Bay. The starting pitcher, he didn’t get a decision, allowing one run on four hits over four innings, walking three and striking out four. The lone run came on a homer by Carlos Peña. Smyly battled rookie nerves early on, walking Desmond Jennings to open the game and then giving up a single to Peña, prompting his first visit to the mound by his manager two batters into his debut. He followed by walking Evan Longoria to load the bases with no outs before getting a fly out and then striking out Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez swinging to end the threat. He was relieved after leading off the fifth inning by hitting Peña with a pitch.
2012 STATS: Was 0-1 with a 16.20 ERA at Toledo, losing his lone start against Indianapolis April 7th, allowing three runs in 1 2/3 innings. Went 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in 5 games, 3 starts, allowing 11 hits in 18 IP, walking 7 and striking out 14 while limiting hitters to a .180 average during spring training with the Tigers.
GETTING TO KNOW DREW: Smyly, a native of Maumelle, Ark. , a suburb of Little Rock, won the No. 5 job in the Tigers rotation despite his non-roster status and limited pro experience thanks to an arsenal of solid stuff, coupled with tremendous poise. Signed right before the draft deadline in 2010 after being taken as a draft-eligible sophomore from Arkansas (he’d red-shirted as a freshman), he sparkled in his lone pro season in 2011, going 7-3 with a 2.58 in 14 starts at Advanced A Lakeland, fanning 77 while walking 21 in 80 innings before moving up to Double-A Erie, where he was 4-3 with a 1.18 ERA in eight starts, striking out 53 in 46 innings while walking 15. Combined, that accounted for an 11-6 record and 2.07 ERA. An ace for Team USA in 2010, he’s an even-keeled control guy whom Tigers manager Jim Leyland referred to as “a classic-looking left-handed pitcher.”
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
DAVID CARPENTER, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-3/180. BORN: Sept. 1, 1987.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 9th round of 2009 out of Paris (Texas) Junior College.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake April 13 when IF Alexi Amarista was sent down.
DEBUT: April 13 in a 5-0 loss to the New York Yankees. The last of three pitchers, he allowed one hit, a single by Nick Swisher, in a scoreless inning, getting all three outs on grounders.
2012 STATS: Had thrown 3 hitless IP in relief at Salt Lake, walking 1 and striking out 2. Was 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA with 6 K and 1 BB in 5 IP in 8 G during spring training, including appearing in 2 games against the Dodgers during the Freeway Series, the second of which he allowed his lone run this spring.
GETTING TO KNOW DAVID: Not to be confused with Houston Astros relief ace David Carpenter, this hurler has dominated in his brief career with his offspeed stuff, getting outs consistently with his sinker and slider. A California League All-Star in 2011 when he combined between Advanced A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas for an 0.57 ERA and 16 saves in 44 games, striking out 52 while walking 14 in 47 2/3 innings, he showed no issues with his promotion, finishing up that summer with 19 scoreless games with the Travelers.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
JOE WIELAND, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-3/195. BORN: Jan. 21, 1990.
ACQUIRED: Acquired via trade from Texas along with P Robbie Erlin for P Mike Adams July 31, 2011. Originally drafted in the 4th round of 2008 by the Rangers out of high school in Nevada.
PROMOTED: Contract purchased April 14 out of Triple-A Tucson when OF Kyle Blanks went on the DL.
DEBUT: April 14 in a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The starting pitcher, he took the loss, allowing all six runs on six hits over five innings, walking two and fanning one. Four of those runs came in the first inning on homers by Matt Kemp, who launched two off of Wieland, and Andre Ethier. He also hit Jerry Hairston Jr. with a pitch.
2012 STATS: 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA at Tucson in 2 G, fanning 11 and walking 2 in 7 2/3 innings. Went 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 5 G, 3 GS, allowing 22 H in 18 IP and striking out 15 while walking just 3 during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW JOE: Wieland, along with his fellow “trade-ee” and fellow top prospect Erlin (Baseball America has them at No. 7 and 8 respectively on their Top 30 prospects list for the Padres), were both dispatched to the minors during spring training since it looked like the Padres had a solid starting five. That solidity crumbled quickly, though, as presumed ace Tim Stauffer started the season on the DL and No. 3 pitcher Dustin Moseley landed on the DL after his lone start with what looks to be a serious shoulder injury. Cue Wieland’s arrival in southern California earlier than expected and, possibly, for the long haul. A control pitcher who had tossed a nine-inning no-hitter at Double-A Frisco two days before being dealt to the Padres, Wieland earned both Advanced A Carolina and Texas League All-Stars last summer, with a 2.10 ERA at Myrtle Beach in 14 starts, a 4-0 record a 1.23 ERA in seven games for Frisco and a 2.77 mark in five more starts at the Padres’ San Antonio Texas League club post-trade. All told, he combined to go 13-4 with a 1.97 ERA, 150 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 155 2/3 innings on the season, down from an 11-7 record and 4.07 ERA in 2010 between two Class A stops. Wieland’s fastball hovers in the 90 MPH range and he locates it well, offsetting it with a 12-6 curve and sinking changeup as well as a slider.
ERASMO RAMIREZ, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 5-11/205. BORN: May 2, 1990.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a free agent in September 2007.
PROMOTED: Broke camp with the Mariners out of spring training.
DEBUT: April 9 in an 11-5 loss to Texas. The second of four pitchers, he allowed one run on two hits over three innings, walking one and striking out three. The run came on a solo two-out homer by Josh Hamilton in the fourth.
2012 STATS: Went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 3 GS, fanning 4 with 1 BB on 10 H in 10 IP during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW ERASMO: Ranked lucky No. 13 by Baseball America among the Mariners’ prospects, the Nicaraguan native came to camp as a non-roster invitee and had his contract purchased the day the team left for its opening series in Japan. With a 3.10 ERA over four seasons, mostly as a starting pitcher in that time (73 out of 79 games), Ramirez had spent his first two pro campaigns in the Venezuelan Summer League, where he posted an 0.51 ERA in 14 games in 2009 while striking out 80 batters against five walks in 88 innings. He brings a fastball in the low 90s, a slurve, a changeup and an easy delivery on the tangible side, coupled with terrific makeup, always an asset on the mound. His versatility when it comes to roles is another asset. A 2011 Southern League All-Star at Double-A Jackson, he posted a 4.73 ERA in 19 starts there last summer before moving up to Triple-A Tacoma. Between the two stops he was 10-8 with a 4.83 ERA, striking out 116 and walking just 32 in 152 2/3 innings.
YU DARVISH, RHP
B/T: R/R. H/W: 6-5/215. BORN: Aug. 16, 1986.
ACQUIRED: Signed as a free agent out of Japan Jan. 18, 2012.
PROMOTED: Broke camp with the Rangers out of spring training.
DEBUT: April 9 in an 11-5 win against Seattle. The starting pitcher, he got the win despite a shaky first inning, allowing five runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out five. Three of the walks and four of the hits came in the four-run first inning before he settled in, including a leadoff walk to Chone Figgins and a bases-loaded walk to his countryman and fellow 2012 debutante Munenori Kawasaki.
2012 STATS: Went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 4 GS, striking out 21 and walking 8 on 12 hits over 15 innings during spring training. He limited hitters to a .226 average and in his last spring tuneup against Colorado, struck out 11 and walking one over 6 IP.
GETTING TO KNOW YU: I swear I had the “getting to know …” part in previous templates and hope this doesn’t count against the “Yu” pun tally. One of the most highly-anticipated Japanese prospects to come stateside, the Rangers paid a team record $108 million to get his rights, including the $52 million posting fee they had to pay his Nippon-Ham club, which had drafted him in the first round of the Japanese draft in 2004. Darvish, who is half-Japanese and half-Iranian (in case you were thinking that Darvish wasn’t a typical Japanese name), posted a 1.99 ERA over seven seasons in his native country, including a spectacular swan song in which he went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings, walking just 36. He’s posted an ERA below 2.00 each of his last five seasons, working with a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s, a slider, cutter, curve and splitter. Technically he is the Rangers’ No. 4 starter right now but he could move up in that pantheon quickly.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
EVAN CRAWFORD, LHP
B/T: R/L. H/W: 6-2/190. BORN: Sept. 2, 1986.
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 9th round of 2008 out of Auburn University.
PROMOTED: Recalled from Double-A New Hampshire April 13 when P Sergio Santos was placed on paternity leave.
DEBUT: April 15 in a 9-2 win against Baltimore. The last of three pitchers, he allowed one hit, a double to Chris Davis, in one scoreless inning, with one strikeout, a called K on Wilson Betemit.
2012 STATS: Had thrown 3 scoreless IP in relief at New Hampshire before getting the call. Appeared in 3 G with 4 no-hit IP, allowing 1 BB with 5 Ks during spring training.
GETTING TO KNOW EVAN: Though he didn’t land on Baseball America’s Top 30 prospects list coming into 2012, Crawford opened a lot of eyes in spring training when he tossed four innings of no-hit ball with five strikeouts. And when Santos needed to head home for a few days, not only did the southpaw get the call from Double-A, when Santos returned, he was NOT the one to go back, sticking around when reliever Aaron Laffey was optioned instead. Possessing a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s, a plus curveball and an effective slider, he moved from starting to relief in 2010 and was there full time last summer, when he went 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings for the Fisher Cats, walking 21 batters while striking out 62.
Click HERE to see the April 9th edition of 'The Door Is Open'.
Lisa Winston is a veteran baseball writer who specializes in writing about the guys who usually don't get written about very much (the minor leaguers). A former senior writer/minor league editor for (dearly departed) USA Today/Baseball Weekly and minor league correspondent for MLB.com, she received her very relevant college degree in Dramatic Arts from Amherst College much longer ago than anyone needs to know. You can read her blog, Queen of Diamonds, (which sometimes but not always discusses baseball) at http://www.lisawinston.com.