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Brad Bergesen & Major League Debuts By Baltimore Orioles Starting Pitchers

Brad Bergesen is scheduled to debut tonight

Brad Bergesen is scheduled to debut tonight

On September 25, 1985, a powerful Baltimore Orioles lineup hit into four double plays and got blanked 3-0 in front of a sparse crowd in Milwaukee as Brewers right-hander Jaime Cocanower hurled his only career shutout. Many miles away, on what was also the 68th birthday of pitching guru Johnny Sain, Bradley Anthony Bergesen was born in Concord, California. Weather permitting, Bergesen will make his major league debut tonight, pitching in Baltimore for the Orioles against the White Sox.

Bergesen is scheduled to become the 46th Oriole to experience his big league baptism with a starting pitching assignment since American League baseball came to Baltimore in 1954. Overall, the 45 men who did it before him won 14, lost 16, got 15 no-decisions and pitched to a 4.27 Earned Run Average. Their average outing looked like this: 5.81 innings, 5.44 hits, 2.98 runs, 2.76 earned runs, 3.04 walks, 3.22 strikeouts & 0.64 home runs allowed. Here is a breakdown of the number of innings they completed:

100% completed at least 2 innings
95.6% completed at least 3 innings
82.2% completed at least 4 innings
68.9% completed at least 5 innings
53.3% completed at least 6 innings
37.8% completed at least 7 innings
15.6% completed at least 8 innings
8.9% completed at least 9 innings
2.2% completed 10 innings

Using Bill James Game Score, here are the five worst major league debuts by Orioles starting pitchers
7/30/2002 @ Tampa Bay – John Stephens gave up a grand slam to Jared Sandberg in the bottom of the first, one of three long balls surrendered in a three-inning, 10-hit, nine-run horror show
7/29/2006 v. White Sox – Jim Johnson walked three and got pounded for nine hits and eight runs.
9//29/1963 v. Tigers – In four innings, Wally Bunker was tagged for 10 hits and six runs. He was only 18-years-old!
7/18/2001 v. Rangers – Sean Douglas didn’t survive the fourth innings, allowing nine hits and six runs.
5/9/1987 @ White Sox – In the shortest outing of these 45 debuts, lefty Jeff Ballard allowed seven hits –including two homers– and six runs in two innings. Two of the runs were unearned.

Now, here are the best Oriole debuts by Game Score, ascending from fourth (first two listed are tied) to first.
8/5/2008 @ Anaheim- Southpaw Chris Waters hurled eight shutout innings of one-hit ball to beat the Angels. Until 34-year-old Japanese veteran Koji Uehara’s first game two weeks ago, the then 27-year-old Waters was the oldest Orioles to make his MLB debut with a start.
9/18/1988 @ Detroit – Bob Milacki also worked eight innings of one-hit shutout ball to give future hope in an otherwise bleak Orioles season.
9/26/1956 v. Yankees – Charlie Beamon walked seven, but struck out nine Yankees and pitched a four-hit shutout.
9/26/1962 v. KC A’s – 19-year-old Dave McNally fired a two-hit shutout, the first of many brilliant efforts from the lefty.
9/15/1966 v. Angels – Tom Phoebus gets the highest grade for his four-hit shutout, due in part to a nifty eight strikeouts versus just two walks.

Tom Phoebus debuted with a shutout in 1966

Tom Phoebus debuted with a shutout in 1966

Jesse Jefferson deserves a special mention. On June 23, 1973 at Fenway Park, he came within one out of shutting out the Red Sox 1-0 in his debut, but Rico Petrocelli blasted a game-tying home run. Not to worry, the Orioles went back ahead in the top of the 10th and Jefferson got three more outs for an extra-inning victory.

Sammy Stewart also deserves highlighting for striking out seven straight White Sox in his first game on September 1, 1978.

Here’s a complete chronological listing of Orioles pitchers who started a game in their MLB debut (Bold indicates they won):

Charlie Beamon -1956
Steve Barber – 1960
Dave McNally – 1962
Wally Bunker – 1963
Dave Vineyard – 1964
Frank Bertaina – 1964
Tom Phoebus – 1966
Dave Leonhard -1967
Jesse Jefferson – 1973
Paul Mitchell – 1975
Sammy Stewart – 1978
Dave Ford – 1978 (I was there for a doubleheader on my 8th birthday)
Mike Boddicker – 1980
Allan Ramirez – 1983
Bill Swaggerty -1983
Ken Dixon – 1984
Jeff Ballard – 1987
Jose Mesa – 1987
Curt Schilling – 1988
Pete Harnisch – 1988
Bob Milacki – 1988
Anthony Telford – 1990
Mike Mussina – 1991
Arthur Rhodes – 1991
Richie Lewis – 1992
John O’Donoghue – 1993
Scott Klingenbeck – 1994
Rick Krivda – 1995
Jimmy Haynes – 1995
Rocky Coppinger – 1996
Chris Fussell – 1998
Matt Riley – 1999
John Parrish – 2000
Lesli Brea – 2000
Sean Douglas – 2001
Rick Bauer – 2001
John Stephens – 2002
Daniel Cabrera – 2004
John Maine – 2004
Hayden Penn – 2005
Jim Johnson – 2006
Garrett Olson – 2007
Radhames Liz – 2007
Chris Waters – 2008
Koji Uehara – 2009

Good luck to Brad Bergesen. Here’s to three straight Orioles winning their big league debuts for the first time in club history.

by Malcolm Allen
malallen@live.com

P.S. – Bergesen’s scheduled to start on the 49th anniversary of Steve Barber’s debut in 1960, the earliest starting pitcher debut in Orioles history other than the aforementioned Uehara game two weeks back. While Barber lasted only four innings against the Senators against Memorial Stadium, allowing three runs (one earned), he will forever be distinguished as the first 20-game winner in club history.

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