Movin' On Up: A historic matchup
Romero-Porcello duel first to pair first-round picks in debuts
The ultimate goal for every Minor Leaguer is to reach the Major Leagues. Every week, Movin' On Up will take a look at prospects who have reached that goal and made their big-league debut.
Baseball has been around for so long that any true "first" is rare. But when Toronto hosted Detroit on April 9, it was just such an occasion.
The matchup of starting pitchers Ricky Romero for the Blue Jays and Rick Porcello for the Tigers marked the first time that first-round Draft picks made their Major League debuts against each other since the inception of the Draft in 1965.
In fact, going back to 1901, only 18 games have featured big league debuts for both starting pitchers (including international free agents or late-round picks).
Coming into Spring Training, the odds of Romero and Porcello even breaking camp with their respective clubs was something of a long shot.
Romero, the Jays' top pick (sixth overall) in 2005 out of Cal State-Fullerton, had been plagued by inconsistency and arm trouble over the last three seasons and was a dark horse candidate for either of two open rotation spots in Toronto before nailing one down a week before Opening Day.
Porcello, 20, had just one season under his belt since signing late after being drafted out of high school in 2007. He spent his first pro season at Class A Advanced Lakeland last summer, but injuries to the Tigers rotation and his strong spring performance convinced the Detroit brass to accelerate his already fast track.
In the end, it was Romero who walked away with the victory in the Blue Jays' 6-2 triumph over the Tigers. He allowed seven hits over six innings, giving up both runs and walking two while striking out five.
Porcello took the loss, lasting five-plus innings and yielding four runs (two to open the sixth before he left) on nine hits and a walk while fanning four.
"I know we made some history, but I just wanted to put them in a good situation to win this ballgame," said Romero, who fessed up to some rookie nerves as he took the mound. "I think I was more nervous warming up coming into the game than I was in the actual game. Once I threw that first pitch, I was like, 'All right, it's just baseball.'"
These other players also made their Major League debuts between April 6-11:
Brett Anderson, LHP, Oakland Athletics
DEBUT: April 10 in a 5-4 loss to Seattle. The starting pitcher, he took the loss, allowing five runs on seven hits in six innings, walking two and striking out two.
NOTES: Anderson was one of two young starters who unexpectedly made the A's rotation. Acquired from Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, he pitched for Team USA at the 2008 Olympics and is known for outstanding command of his slider, fastball and curve, as well as his mound composure.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
DEBUT: April 6 in a 9-1 win over Cleveland. Starting at shortstop and batting ninth, he went 1-for-4, doubling in his first at-bat, and scored a run.
NOTES: The 20-year-old Andrus' impending arrival bumped All-Star shortstop Michael Young to third base, but his respect for the game's history and lack of any sense of entitlement, coupled with a dazzling glove and great speed, quelled any issues there. The Rangers also signed fellow Venezuelan shortstop Omar Vizquel to mentor Andrus.
Andrew Bailey, RHP, Oakland Athletics
DEBUT: April 6 in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The last of three pitchers, he tossed a hitless inning, striking out one batter.
NOTES: A 2006 sixth-round pick out of Wagner College on Staten Island, Bailey's star took off when he moved from the rotation to relief midway through 2008. He has good control of a cut fastball and hard curve and has dominated hitters since moving to the 'pen last summer.
Ronald Belisario, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
DEBUT: April 7 in a 4-2 loss to San Diego. The last of four pitchers, he needed only 11 pitches to toss a perfect inning, striking out one.
NOTES: Belisario was one of the first cuts from big league camp and one of the last recalls at the end of Spring Training, but he's where he wants to be now. The 26-year-old Venezuelan originally signed with the Marlins at age 16. Injuries and ineffectiveness slowed his climb, but his great stuff was evident this spring.
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres
DEBUT: April 8 in a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers. The starting shortstop, he batted eighth and went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk and a run scored.
NOTES: One of two Rockies prospects to get "Rule 5'd" and stick with their new clubs. The speedy Cabrera led the Minors with 73 steals last summer at Class A Asheville. His upside could convince the Padres to keep a spot for him all year.
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Oakland Athletics
DEBUT: April 7 in a 6-4 win over the Angels. The starting pitcher, he did not get a decision after giving up three runs -- two earned -- on five hits in five innings. He walked five, one intentionally, and struck out one.
NOTES: The club's top pick in 2006, the 21-year-old Cahill boasts a lively fastball in the mid-90s, a knuckle-curve and a slider, though his command is still a work in progress. His .179 opponents' average in 2008 ranked second among all full-season Minor League starters.
Trevor Crowe, OF, Cleveland Indians
DEBUT: April 9 in a 12-8 loss to Texas. The starting right fielder, he batted eighth and went 0-for-5.
NOTES: The Indians' top pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona, Crowe actually had been sent to Minor League camp but was brought back virtually hours later when David Dellucci went on the disabled list. He's hit a combined .275 over four pro seasons, including a .302 average between two stops in 2008.
Brian Duensing, LHP, Minnesota Twins
DEBUT: April 10 in a 12-5 win over the White Sox. The second of three pitchers, he gave up two runs on two hits over three innings, striking out one without walking a batter.
NOTES: A starter-turned-reliever, at least for now, Duensing actually worked in this role for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. Selected in the third round in 2005 out of Nebraska, he has command of four pitches, his best being a changeup.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
DEBUT: April 6 in a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh. He entered in the top of the seventh inning at third base via a double-switch and went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
NOTES: Acquired from the Padres for outfielder Jim Edmonds prior to '08, Freese's breakout season at Triple-A Memphis (.306-26-91), combined with an injury to Troy Glaus, opened the door for his debut.
Luke Gregerson, RHP, San Diego Padres
DEBUT: April 6 in a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers. The last of three pitchers, he allowed one hit in a scoreless inning, walking one and striking out two.
NOTES: Gregerson was a surprise last-minute addition to the Padres bullpen, having just been acquired from the Cardinals as "the player to be named later" for shortstop Khalil Greene. Though he'd never pitched above Double-A, he limited opponents to a .205 average in three pro seasons.
Chris Jakubauskas, RHP, Seattle Mariners
DEBUT: April 8 in a 6-5 loss to Minnesota. The second of two pitchers, he allowed a hit over two scoreless innings, issuing an intentional walk while striking out two.
NOTES: The 30-year-old went from independent league veteran to big league reliever in less than two seasons since signing with the Mariners in mid-2007. He combined for a 1.88 ERA across three stops last summer and was so effective this spring against left-handers that Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu felt comfortable going with an all-right-handed bullpen.
Kenshin Kawakami, RHP, Atlanta Braves
DEBUT: April 11 in a 5-3 win against Washington. The starting pitcher, he earned the win and allowed three runs on four hits in six innings, walking four and fanning eight.
NOTES: The 33-year-old pitched for 10 years for the Chunichi Dragons, with his big curveball as his out pitch. He was the league's Rookie of the Year in 1998 when he went 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA. He signed with the Braves in January and is the Braves' No. 4 starter where he projects as a solid workhorse in that role.
Shawn Kelley, RHP, Seattle Mariners
DEBUT: April 10 in a 5-4 win over Oakland. The fourth of five pitchers, he allowed one hit in a shutout inning, striking out two.
NOTES: With just one full season under his belt, spread among three stops through Double-A in 2008, Kelley's hard slider is the best in the system and helped him limit foes to a .218 average last summer.
Joe Martinez, RHP, San Francisco Giants
DEBUT: April 7 in a 10-6 win over Milwaukee. The second of seven pitchers, he got the win in relief of starter Tim Lincecum, allowing two runs on three hits in two innings, walking one and striking out one.
NOTES: A starter in the Minors, where he led the Double-A Eastern League with a 2.49 ERA last summer, Martinez grabbed the last spot in the Giants bullpen out of Spring Training after winning the Harry S. Jordan Award for the player in his first big league camp who best exemplifies the franchise's spirit. However, two days after his debut, he was hit in the head by a line drive and suffered a concussion and three hairline fractures that landed him on the DL. He is expected to recover completely.
Edwin Moreno, RHP, San Diego Padres
DEBUT: April 7 in a 4-2 win over the Dodgers. The second of four pitchers, he got a hold, walking two and striking out one in a scoreless inning.
NOTES: The 28-year-old from Venezuela is in his 11th pro season, most of which was spent in the Rangers system. He signed with the Padres in 2007 and split last summer between the Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Portland bullpens.
David Patton, RHP, Chicago Cubs
DEBUT: April 8 in an 11-6 win over Houston. The second of four pitchers, he allowed one run on one hit over two innings, striking out two.
NOTES: A Rule 5 Draft pick from Colorado, Patton spent five pro seasons in Class A, but his 1.26 ERA over 14 1/3 innings this spring beat out veteran Chad Gaudin and top prospect Jeff Samardzija for a bullpen spot.
Ramiro Pena, IF, New York Yankees
DEBUT: April 6 in a 10-5 loss to Baltimore. Pinch-ran for Nick Swisher in the eighth inning and stayed in at third base but did not come to the plate.
NOTES: The system's best defensive infield prospect beat out veteran Angel Berroa for the last roster spot, a utility slot left open due to the injury to Alex Rodriguez. The switch-hitter has spent all or parts of the last four seasons at Double-A.
Ryan Perry, RHP, Detroit Tigers
DEBUT: April 8 in a 5-1 win over Toronto. The third of four pitchers, he tossed a perfect inning, striking out one.
NOTES: The converted shortstop was the Tigers' first-round pick last spring out of Arizona. His fastball has been clocked in triple digits several times and consistently hits the high-90s. He also has a power slider along with prototypical closer makeup. An 0.77 ERA this spring won him the bullpen job left open when Joel Zumaya went on the DL.
Landon Powell, C, Oakland Athletics
DEBUT: April 11 in an 8-5 loss to Seattle. The starting catcher, he batted ninth and went 1-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs.
NOTES: It's been nearly 10 years since Powell was declared eligible for the 2000 draft as a high school junior for receiving his GED. No one bit and he headed to South Carolina where he had a great career before the A's drafted him in the first round of 2004. Now 27, injuries (mostly knee) have slowed his ascent and he's played more than 100 games in a season just once, but flashes big power when he does. Relegated to backup catcher behind young Kurt Suzuki, he will likely be used sparingly.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
DEBUT: April 7 in a 9-3 win over Pittsburgh. The starting right fielder, he batted second and went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
NOTES: One of the Minors' top prospects, the 2005 first-rounder has hit a combined .277 in four seasons. Though he batted .251 with 11 homers, 36 RBIs and 15 steals in 90 games at Triple-A Memphis, the Cards feel confident they're more likely to see the kid who batted hit .275 with 29 homers, 72 RBIs and 18 steals at Double-A Springfield the previous summer.
Jordan Schafer, OF, Atlanta Braves
DEBUT: April 5 in a 4-1 win over Philadelphia. The starting center fielder, he batted eighth and went 2-for-3 with a solo homer.
NOTES: Schafer became the 99th player in Major League history -- and the fourth Brave -- to homer in his first big league at-bat. He was also the first Braves player to make his big league debut in the Opening Day starting lineup since 1981.
Walter Silva, RHP, San Diego Padres
DEBUT: April 8 in a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers. The starting pitcher, he did not get the decision after allowing two runs on five hits over five innings. He walked four and struck out one.
NOTES: The 32-year-old spent the last seven seasons with the Monterrey Sultanes of the Mexican League because the team's owners wouldn't part with his contract. The Gonzalez brothers, Adrian and Edgar, who played with him in the Mexican Winter League, had a hand in his coming to the Padres and he won one of the rotation spots this spring.
Koji Uehara, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
DEBUT: April 8 in a 7-5 win over the Yankees. The starting pitcher, he earned the win with five innings of five-hit ball, allowing one run and walking one without striking out a batter.
NOTES: The Orioles' first Japanese free-agent signee is a former Rookie of the Year in his home country as well as a two-time Sawamura Award winner as the league's top pitcher. A 10-year veteran of the fabled Yomiuri Giants, who drafted him with the first overall pick in 1998, he had a 3.01 ERA there but was somewhat hobbled during Spring Training by a sore left hamstring.
Donnie Veal, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
DEBUT: April 7 in a 9-3 loss to St. Louis. The second of four pitchers, he allowed one hit -- a home run -- in one inning, walking three and striking out three.
NOTES: A Rule 5 pick from the Chicago Cubs, Veal accurately described his first big league outings as "one of the most interesting debuts ever." He was one of the top pitching prospects in 2006, leading Minor League starters with a .175 opponents' average. Control issues plagued him the last two seasons, but he's posted a combined .232 average against and a 3.76 ERA in four years.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.