Javier Vazquez

Bases emblazoned with Opening Day sit ready to be installed on the field on opening night of the MLB season in Houston

The worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s


Opening Day is set to kick off in just a few minutes when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison opposes the Astros’ Bud Norris. Though Norris isn’t terrible, he isn’t exactly the type of starter you envision kicking off your team’s season on Opening Day.

With that said, let’s take a quick look back at some of the worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s.

April 1, 2011: Roberto Hernandez (Indians) vs. White Sox

Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, was hit right from the start. He allowed two runs in the first, four in the third, and was charged for four more in the fourth inning as the Sox put up an eight-spot. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin homered in the third, but the rest of the damage was done by singles and doubles.

Hernandez’s final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

April 5, 2010: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) vs. Braves

The Cubs staked Zambrano to a three-run lead in the first inning, but he gave it back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. On a walk, four singles, and a three-run home run by Jason Heyward, the Braves scored six runs. In the second, Zambrano hit Martin Prado, then Chipper Jones grounded out but Prado ended up coming all the way around to score on a Zambrano throwing error, and Brian McCann homered before the right-hander was finally removed from the game.

Zambrano’s final line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

April 2, 2007: Jose Contreras (White Sox) vs. Indians

Grady Sizemore led the game off with a home run, then three more Indians reached base without making an out — all singles. Josh Barfield landed a crushing blow with two outs, hitting a two-run triple to right field that brought the Indians’ lead to 5-0. Contreras came out for the second inning, but walked Sizemore, then surrendered a double to Trot Nixon to put runners on second and third with no outs. Travis Hafner hit a grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe, but he made an errant throw to first base, allowing Sizemore and Nixon to score, chasing Contreras in the process.

Contreras’s final line: 1 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 1 BB, 1 K

April 3, 2006: Jon Lieber (Phillies) vs. Cardinals

Lieber was on the hook for eight runs in his start, which is amazing considering he exited the third inning having allowed only two runs on a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the first and an Albert Pujols solo home run in the third. The eventual World Series champions strung together a bunch of hits against Lieber in the fourth: five singles and a triple. Lieber left with his team down 5-0 with one out and the bases loaded. Julio Santana came in relief but he only poured more gasoline on the fire. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, Edmonds was walked to re-load the bases, and Scott Rolen hit a grand slam to put his team up 10-0.

Lieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

April 4, 2005: Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks) vs. Cubs

The first inning wasn’t that bad for Vazquez. He surrendered four hits, leading to two runs, but they were all singles. The Cubs started crushing everything Vazquez threw in the second. He got Michael Barrett to pop out to lead off the inning, but pitcher Carlos Zambrano reached base on a double, which was then followed up by three consecutive singles and an Aramis Ramirez double, putting the Cubs up 6-0. Jeremy Burnitz struck out, but Derrek Lee extended the inning with a double to left, driving in the Cubs’ seventh run, pushing Vazquez out of the game.

Vazquez’s final line: 1.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Javier Vazquez ends comeback attempt due to knee injury

javier vazquez getty

Javier Vazquez’s comeback, which was going to include pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, is over before it started.

Last month Vazquez underwent what was said to be a minor knee surgery to repair meniscus damage, but Ruben Rodriguez of El Nuevo Dia in Puerto Rico reports that he will not pitch in the WBC. And according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that means Vazquez “will not pitch in MLB this year.”

Vazquez would have had to pitch well (and prove he was healthy) in the WBC to draw significant interest from MLB teams anyway, so the knee problems sabotaged all of that for the 36-year-old.

Report: Nick Johnson chooses retirement at age 34

nick johnson getty

Former Yankees, Nationals and Orioles first baseman Nick Johnson, one of the great what-ifs of the last 15 years, has opted for retirement, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.

A phenomenal hitting talent, Johnson missed his first full season in the Yankees system before even arriving in the majors. He hit .345/.525/.548 in 132 games in Double-A in 1999, then sat out 2000 because of a wrist injury that required surgery. He debuted with the Bombers in 2001, but he struggled to establish himself as he continued to deal with wrist problems. After he hit .284/.422/.472 in 96 games as a 24-year-old in 2003, the Yankees traded him, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to the Expos for Javier Vazquez.

Johnson played 4 1/2 seasons for the Expo-Nats and had his best year in 2006, hitting .290/.428/.520 with a career-high 23 homers and 77 RBI in 147 games. Unfortunately, his season ended on Sept. 23, when he suffered a broken leg in a collision with Austin Kearns. He went on to miss the entire 2007 campaign, and although he returned in 2008, he played in just 38 games then due to a torn wrist ligament.

Johnson’s last hurrah came in 2009, when he hit .291/426/.405 in 133 games for the Nationals and Marlins. He finished second in the NL in OBP to Albert Pujols. After that, he played in 24 games with the Yankees in 2010, missed the 2011 season and then played in 38 games with the Orioles last year.

Johnson, now 34, finishes his career with a .268/.399/.441 line in 2,698 at-bats over 10 seasons. That .399 OBP is 62nd all-time for players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. Had Johnson been able to avoid his initial wrist problems and stay relatively healthy, it’s pretty easy to imagine him putting together a career in which he had a few .300 seasons, several top-three finishes in OBP and maybe 300 homers over 15-18 seasons. Maybe that’s not a Hall of Famer, but with the possible .420 OBP, some would have argued for him.