Prior to March 30th of last year, most people had no idea Odalis Perez was still in the majors, and yet there he was on ESPN to open the season versus Atlanta.
The most unlikely opening day starter this year? Probably Oakland’s Dallas Braden or the Angels’ Joe Saunders. In terms of events having to occur for the pitcher to get the nod, then Saunders takes the cake. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Ervin Santana all had to go down with injuries. Owner of a career 4.36 FIP, Saunders doesn’t come close to the most unlikely opening day starter of the past few seasons.
Jason Johnson and Mike Maroth got the call in consecutive years for the Tigers. A 1999 game between the Pirates and Expos featured a match-up of Francisco Cordova and Dustin Hermansen. Steve Trachsel, Albie Lopez, Tanyon Sturtze, and Dewon Brazelton have done honors for the Rays. 2002 saw Ron Villone start for the Pirates. Remember when Jose Lima started opening day 2005 for the Royals against the Tigers? Yeah, odds are, neither does Lima. The Twins primary opening day starter this decade was Brad Radke, with the exception of two Johan Santana starts, last year they called upon Livan Hernandez. Ouch.
Billy Beane’s first opening as General Manager came with Gil Heredia on the mound. Jeff Fassero also got the start in 1999 for the Mariners. The Rangers? Let’s see, Rick Helling, Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdez, and Ryan Drese. How about the Brewers, with a run of Rafael Roque, Steve Woodard, and Jamey Wright?
By comparison, Saunders nor Braden seems that out of place. Who are some opening day starters that proved once and for all why the word isn’t synonymous with “ace of the staff”?