Opening Day Starting Pitchers from the Dominican Republic
A leaky bullpen cost Domincan southpaw Odalis Perez of Washington a victory in the innaugural game at Nationals Park last night, but he did become the 16th pitcher from his homeland to get an opening day (or, in this case, night) assignment.
Not surprisingly, Hall-of-Fame right-hander Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants was the first to do it. In fact, he made the first 10 opening game starts in a 12-season stretch from 1962-1973. The “Dominican Dandy” went 6-2 overall -including a pair of shutouts- with two no-decisions.
Pedro Martinez started only one opener with his current team -the Mets- but he established a record for Domincan hurlers by starting the first game of the season for eight consecutive years (the first seven from 1998-2004 with the Red Sox). Like Marichal, Martinez fared well, winning three of four decisions and having two possible wins flushed away by relievers.
Martinez’ brother Ramon started five openers for the Dodgers between 1992-1998, winning two and losing the other three when his teammates supplied him a grand total of one run. The only other Dominican brothers to pitch on opening day are Melido (1990 White Sox) and Carlos Perez (1998 Expos). The Perez’ older brother Pascual was an All-Star with the Braves, but off-field troubles played a part in preventing him from completing the trifecta.
Only the Reds match the Giants in giving the ball to a Dominican ten times on opening day, though it took them two pitchers to do it. Mario Soto worked six openers from 1982-1988, while Jose Rijo started four straight from 1992-1995. The two Missouri teams are the only others with two different Dominican opening day starters. The Cardinals going to Joaquin Andujar in 1985 and Jose DeLeon in 1992, while the Royals pitched Runelvys Hernandez in 2003 and Jose Lima two years later.
Other than Pedro Martinez, the only Dominican to pitch season openers for two different teams is Bartolo Colon. Colon started three in a row for both the Indians (2000-2002) and the Angels (2004-2006).
Other Dominicans who opened the season for their clubs are: Pedro Astacio (2000 Rockies). Juan Guzman (1994 Blue Jays) and Rafael Roque (1999 Brewers).
Following Odalis Perez’ effort on 3/31/08, Dominicans have started 49 opening day games. By game score, here are the five best and worst efforts:
FIVE BEST OPENING DAY GAME SCORES
87 – Juan Marichal (1966) – complete game 3-hitter vs. the Cubs, 8 K’s, no walks and just one unearned run
85 – Juan Marichal (1962) – Whiffs 10 in 3-hit shutout to beat Warren Spahn & the Braves
84 – Juan Marichal (1971) – Shut out Padres on 5-hits with 8 K’s & one walk
82 – Pedro Martinez (2000) – Struck out 11 in 7 innings of 2-hit work to beat Jamie Moyer & Seattle 2-0
81 – Juan Marichal (1965) – Scoreless duel with Pirates Bob Veale lost when Bob Bailey homers leading off 10th
next 5 = Pedro Martinez (1998), Bartolo Colon (2002), Jose Rijo (1993), Mario Soto (1984), Juan Marichal (1972)
FIVE WORST OPENING DAY GAME SCORES
33 – Joaquin Andujar (1985) – left trailing Doc Gooden 5-2 after 8 hits & 5 runs in 5 innings. Got no-decision
31 – Ramon Martinez (1992) – Hammered by Giants for 7 hits in less than 3 innings. Lost 8-1.
29 – Jose Lima (2005) – Clubbed for 3 homers in 3 innings by the Tigers in 11-2 loss.
26 – Juan Marichal (1967) – Lost 6-0 to Bob Gibson (13 K’s) by allowing 6 runs & 14 hits in 7 innings
13 – Pedro Martinez (2002) – 9 hits & 8 runs in 3 innings vs. Blue Jays in first Fenway opener. No-decision
by MALCOLM ALLEN
NOTES: The most teams to choose a Dominican to pitch on opening day in a season in three. It happened in 1992, 1998, 2000 & 2005.
2007 marked the first time in 16 years that no Dominicans started their club’s season opener. Hopefully, Odalis Perez has started a new streak!