How to Know When a Rotation Is in Tatters

by Jason Epstein

With four-fifths of the Rangers’ planned rotation injured, Tanner Scheppers is the planned Opening Day starter next Monday afternoon against the visiting Phillies. And here’s the rub: The 27-year-old Scheppers will be making his first-ever big-league start.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson relays the details:

That duty Monday against Philadelphia falls to right-hander Tanner Scheppers, the primary eighth-inning set-up man last season who will become the first major league pitcher in 33 years to make his first career start in a season opener.

Robbie Ross, another 2013 bullpen hand, will start the Rangers’ third game, following Perez. Fellow lefty Joe Saunders secured the No. 4 spot.

Then there’s Nick Martinez, a right-hander who spent all but one month last season at Class A Myrtle Beach and didn’t make a single Cactus League start. He was the correct answer to Daniels’ single-dollar question.

Right or wrong, the Rangers have their rotation. At least for the first few weeks of the 2014 season. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and, eventually, Derek Holland will be coming to the rescue.

“I like where our rotation is,” Daniels said. “We have a lot of confidence in that group.

“We have four guys on our pitching staff that won’t be with us Day One. With the exception of Derek, they should all be back in relatively short order. We’ll get that group back and go from there.”

As noted, Ross also has yet to start a game in the majors, whereas Martinez doesn’t even have a spring training start under his belt.

So can you name the last bloke who got the start for the very first time in his club’s first game of the regular season?

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reminds us:

Fernando Valenzuela, in 1981, is the last pitcher to make the first start of his career on opening day. Valenzuela beat Joe Niekro and the defending NL West champion Houston Astros that day and went on to win his first eight starts. It gave rise to mass hysteria over Valenzuela starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a phenomenon that became known as Fernando Mania.

More here and here.