On Saturday, when the Oakland Raiders host the Houston Texans (yes, I know it’s football), the starting QB for the Raiders will be Connor Cook. Connor will be the first rookie in NFL history to have his first career start in a playoff game. This reminded me of something that happened on Opening Day (baseball) in 2014 that you may have missed.
On March 31, 2014, Tanner Scheppers was the Texas Rangers Opening Day starting pitcher. This was an oddity, because it was Tanner’s first career start.
The Opening Day Start is an honor given to the team’s ace, generally as a reward for the previous season’s performance. The Rangers’ intended starter, Yu Darvish, came down with an injury at the end of Spring Training and rather than move everybody up, the Rangers inserted Tanner into the #1 starter’s spot.
It was fitting that Tanner got his big chance due to an injury, as his career has been plagued by injuries. In 2008, he fell to the 2nd round of the draft due to health concerns and refused to sign for a reduced offer. In 2009, he was drafted in the supplemental 1st round by the Rangers (again falling in the draft order due to injury concerns).
When healthy, Tanner has been very good.
The stats below are from baseball-reference.com. Notice the 2013 season when he appeared in 76 games with a 1.88 ERA.
After his Opening Day start, Tanner had 3 more starts before going on the DL in April. He returned later that season and pitched 4 games in relief before going back on the DL for the remainder of the season. He was back in 2015 and pitched most of the season before missing the last two months with an injury. Tanner later required surgery before the 2016 season but got back to the majors this past September. As mentioned above, in Tanner’s one healthy year, he was excellent — and the workhorse of the Rangers’ bullpen.
Here’s to a healthy 2017 for Tanner.
Some White Sox Stuff —
According to former White Sox pitcher Early Wynn (great name for an Opening Day starter), “You always want to win on Opening Day because that means you can’t lose them all”. Early won the Cy Young Award (at age 39) for the pennant-winning 1959 team and was the Sox Opening Day starter in 1960 & 61).
BTW — Early was a switch-hitter who often pinch hit — once hitting a pinch grand slam.
Jeff Samardzija started on Opening Day in 2015 — his only year with the White Sox. Chris Sale, the Sox #1 pitcher at the time (3 Opening Day starts), had broken his foot jumping off his pickup truck in the off-season.
Most Sox Opening Day starts: Mark Buehrle-9, Billy Pierce-7, Wilbur Wood-5.
Maybe Jose Quintana will get the honor this year (if he’s still on the team).