The Pirates threw top prospect Starling Marte right into the fire for his major league debut tonight against the Astros by placing him in the leadoff spot. However, the 23-year-old outfielder rose to the occasion by depositing the first pitch he saw from left-hander Dallas Keuchel over the left field fence. MLB.com won’t let me embed the video, but you can watch it right here.
Marte is the 28th player in major league history to homer on the first pitch of his career and the first Pirate to do it since Don Leppert on June 18, 1961. He’s the first player to lead off his first major league game with a homer since Kaz Matsui did it with the Mets on April 6, 2004.
By the way, Marte just flew out in his second at-bat, so he clearly should have gone out on a high note.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.
Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.
When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.
The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.