Debuts of Baseball's Best
Chipper Jones, Sept. 11, 1993
After being inserted as a defensive replacement and pinch runner in two straight games, Jones finally got a chance at the plate as a pinch-hitter for SS Jeff Blauser on Sept. 14, and got a hit in his only at-bat. He played in eight games as a call-up that season before missing all of the 1994 year with an injury.
Alex Rodriguez, July 8, 1994
The No. 1 pick in the 1993 draft, A-Rod debuted for the Mariners just over one year later, three weeks shy of his 19th birthday, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He hit ninth and went 0-for-3, including a pair of groundouts. He played 16 more games in the majors before being sent back to the minors, where he stayed for most of the 1995 season as well before exploding in 1996 by batting .358 and driving in 123 runs.
Mariano Rivera, May 23, 1995
The best closer in baseball history actually debuted as a starter. He lasted just 3.1 innings against the Angels, giving up five runs on eight runs and striking out five. In all, he made 10 starts as a rookie, the only starts of his career, before being moved to the bullpen in 1996.
Derek Jeter, May 29, 1995
Six days after one future Hall of Famer debuted in pinstripes, the Yankees welcomed another to the big leagues as Jeter played his first game. He went 0-for-5 out of the nine-hole in his first start, but helped turn a pair of douple plays from shortstop. He batted .234 in his two-week stint before being sent back to the minors. He returned for good at the start of the 1996 season, when he won Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead the Yankees to the first of five World Series titles in his career.
Roy Halladay, Sept. 20, 1998
Doc Halladay's debut for Toronto was a five-inning, three-run outing that included five strikeouts, but he was long gone from the game when the Blue Jays finally won in 12 innings. In his second start, Halladay took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, before Detroit's Bobby Higginson hit a solo homer with 2 outs that ruined his bid.
Albert Pujols, April 2, 2001
Pujols started in left field for the Cardinals on Opening Day 2001 against the Rockies. He picked up his first hit in the seventh inning, but was caught stealing and finished the day 1-for-3 from the plate. He went on to have one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history, finishing at .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs.
Joe Mauer, April 5, 2004
The reigning AL MVP hit eighth and was behind the plate on Opening Day 2004, but after going 2-for-3 in his debut, Mauer played just one more game before a knee injury sidelined him for a month.
David Wright, July 21, 2004
Wright made his debut at Shea Stadium in a 5-4 Mets win over Montreal. He hit seventh, sandwiched between Mike Cameron and Vance Wilson, but went 0-for-4. He held the starting third base job for the rest of the season, finishing at .293 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs.
Ryan Howard, Sept. 1, 2004
Howard was a dominant minor league slugger who hit 46 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2004, but his path to the majors was blocked by Phillies slugger Jim Thome. Howard finally debuted as a September call-up, striking out in his first big league at-bat as a pinch-hitter. The future NL MVP wouldn't get a hit until his first start, a week later in Atlanta, and still spent two months in the minors in 2005 before settling in the majors for good.
Felix Hernandez, August 4, 2005
Hernandez first took the mound for the Mariners as a 19-year-old phenom. In his first big league start, King Felix took the loss despite hurling five innings of three-hit ball, giving up just two runs and striking out four Tigers. He was pulled after 81 pitches and finished his rookie year 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA.
Tim Lincecum, May 6, 2007
Lincecum's multiple-Cy Young winning career began with a start opposite Philly's Cole Hamels, who came away with the win. Lincecum avoided the loss, though, lasting just 4.1 innings and giving up five earned runs, including homers to Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard.
Evan Longoria, April 12, 2008
The Rays elected to keep Longoria in the minors at the start of the season, but waited barely two weeks before promoting the No. 3 overall pick of the 2006 draft. Longoria hit sixth and went 1-for-3, the highlight of the day coming when his ground ball to the left side dribbled into left field, scoring B.J. Upton for his first career hit and RBI. Longoria went on to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.