Rookies Perez, Rosario start careers with history-making homers
For just the second time in over a century, two players homered in their major league debuts on back-to-back days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both home runs were notable for other reasons as well. On Tuesday night, Angels catcher Carlos Perez capped his first game by hitting a walk-off longball to send the Halos to a 5–4 victory over the Mariners. On Wednesday night, Twins rightfielder Eddie Rosario went yard on the first pitch of his first plate appearance in what turned out to be a 13–0 rout of the Athletics.
The 24-year-old Perez, who was acquired from the Astros last November in a deal that sent Hank Conger to Houston, was called up from Triple A Salt Lake City on Monday to provide an alternative to slumping starter Chris Iannetta (currently hitting .094/.192/.109). He drew the start on Tuesday in Anaheim, catching Garrett Richards and facing Seattle's James Paxton, off whom he singled in his first plate appearance in the second inning. The seesaw battle wound up knotted at 4–4 heading into the ninth inning, and after the Mariners went down 1-2-3 against Huston Street, Perez led off the bottom of the ninth against Dominic Leone and did this to his second pitch:
Welcome to the The Show! It was just the fourth time in major league history a player has ended his debut with a walkoff home run, and the second time in Angels history—the first was Billy Parker, who did so against the Brewers on Sept. 9, 1971. Josh Bard walked off for the Indians against the Mariners on Aug. 23, 2002, and most recently, Miguel Cabrera did so for the Marlins against the Devil Rays on June 20, 2003.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Perez's father and two brothers—all of whom are named Carlos but go by their middle names back home—watched the home run in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. One of the brothers, Carlos Jesus Perez, is an 18-year-old catcher in the White Sox chain. The Angels' catcher is Carlos Eduardo Perez.
As for the 23-year-old Rosario, he's a familiar name in prospect circles, albeit not always for the right reasons. A fourth-round 2010 pick who made the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects list in both '12 (No. 87) and last year (No. 60), his star fell somewhat after he drew a 50-game suspension to start the '14 season due to a second positive test for a "drug of abuse" (marijuana, not steroids), then hit just .243/.286/.387 in 87 games split between the Twins' Class A and Double A affiliates. An eye-opening stint in the Arizona Fall League last year and a strong spring training this year put him back on the radar, enough to overlook his slow start at Triple A Rochester, and he got the call-up after Oswaldo Arcia hit the disabled list with a hip flexor strain on Monday.
Though the injury isn't likely to keep Arcia out for more than the minimum 15 days, the Twins bypassed the more experienced Aaron Hicks—who has hit just .201/.293/.313 for the big club over the past two seasons—in favor of taking Rosario for a test drive. Called up on Monday, he didn't get written into the lineup by manager Paul Molitor until Wednesday night's game against the A's at Target Field. He came to bat for the first time to lead off the bottom of the third inning and drilled Scott Kazmir's introductory 91 mph fastball over the left-centerfield wall:
Rosario thus became the 29th player to homer on the first pitch he faced in the majors, and the first since the Pirates’ Starling Marte did so against the Astros on July 26, 2012. Current Minnesota minor leaguer Tommy Milone, a pitcher, preceded Marte with a homer for the Nationals against the Mets on Sept. 3, 2011. The other active players who have done so are: J.P. Arencibia (for the Blue Jays against the Rays, Aug. 7, 2010); Daniel Nava (Red Sox vs. Phillies, June 12, 2010); Kevin Kouzmanoff (Indians vs. Rangers, Sept. 2, 2006); and Adam Wainwright (Cardinals vs. Giants, May 24, 2006). Nava and Kouzmanoff both hit grand slams, while Wainwright’s homer actually came in his 47th game, as he had worked as a reliever without getting to swing the bat prior.
In all, 118 players have homered in their first at-bats, regardless of the pitch, with Jorge Soler (Cubs vs. Reds, Aug. 27, 2014) the most recent prior to Rosario. The list includes five Twins: Rick Renick (July 7, 1968 vs. Tigers), Dave McKay (Aug. 22, 1975 vs. Tigers), Gary Gaetti (Sept. 20, 1981 vs. Rangers), Andre David (June 29, 1984 vs. Tigers) and Luke Hughes (April 28, 2010 vs. Tigers—yet again). Via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, 215 players have homered in their first major league games since the start of the 1914 season, regardless of plate appearance, with the Blue Jays' Devon Travis the last to do so before Perez and Rosario, that on April 6 against the Yankees. Eight players did so last year.
While there have been five occurrences of two players homering in their major league debuts on the same day, the only other time that a pair has homered in their debuts on back-to-back days came on Sept. 5–6, 1998, when the White Sox' Craig Wilson and the Braves' Marty Malloy did so against the Yankees and Mets, respectively. Neither of those homers was in the first at-bat nor in a walkoff, so take a bow, Carlos Perez and Eddie Rosario: You're in the history books.