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 How notable Tiger pitchers fared in their rookie seasons

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PostSubject: How notable Tiger pitchers fared in their rookie seasons   Mon May 25, 2009 10:32 pm

Saturday, May 23, 2009
How notable Tiger pitchers fared in their rookie seasons
Tony Paul / The Detroit News

Justin Verlander, 2006

Acquired: Drafted in the first round (No. 2) in 2004

MLB debut: July 4, 2004, at Cleveland; loss, 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO

The 2006 Tigers were full of surprises, and at the top of the list was this right-hander, who went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and was the Tigers' first rookie of the year since Lou Whitaker 28 years earlier. At 23, Verlander made the club out of spring training as the No. 5 starter and quickly impressed, tossing seven innings of two-hit, scoreless ball in his season debut. During one three-month stretch, he was 11-1 with a 2.46 ERA and tossed his first career shutout. But as the innings piled up, so did his struggles: He was 4-7 with a 5.85 ERA down the stretch, including the postseason.

Jeremy Bonderman, 2003

Acquired: Traded from A's on Aug. 22, 2002, with Carlos Pena and Franklyn German in a move that sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees and Ted Lilly to the A's

MLB debut: April 2, 2003, vs. Minnesota; loss, 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO

The right-hander's debut was highly anticipated, since he was the big prize in the controversial-at-the-time Jeff Weaver trade. After just a year in the minor leagues, he pitched his first MLB season as a 20-year-old and certainly took his lumps along the way, going 6-19 with a 5.56 ERA for a team that lost an American League-record 119 games. During one rotten run, he was 0-9 in an 11-game stretch despite a not-too-horrible 4.57 ERA. In September, Bonderman was working mostly out of the bullpen; he narrowly avoided joining Mike Maroth in the 20-loss club.

Dan Petry, 1979

Acquired: Drafted in the fourth round (No. 74) in 1976

MLB debut: July 8, 1979, at Milwaukee; loss, 7 1/3 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Like Jeremy Bonderman in 2006 and Rick Porcello this season, Petry spent his entire rookie season as a 20-year-old. Called up to pitch the back end of a doubleheader in July, he scraped his way into the eighth inning of a loss in Milwaukee. Five days later, the right-hander threw his first complete game (for his first career victory), and 13 days after that he turned in another one. By season's end, he was 6-5 with a 3.95 ERA and had served notice: The Tigers rotation would be including him for the foreseeable future, which turned out to be nine years.

Jack Morris, 1978
Acquired: Drafted in the fifth round (No. 98) in 1976

MLB debut: July 26, 1977, at Chicago; no-decision, 4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

The red-headed right-hander made his major league debut a year earlier, but still had rookie eligibility in 1978 when he was called up in late April at age 22. His first three starts essentially were a bust, so he quickly was moved to the bullpen, where he most often filled the long-relief role. Ten times he entered in the seventh or earlier and finished the game, and he concluded the year with a 3.79 ERA and .240 opponents' batting average in relief vs. 5.57/.323 as a starter. Well, he got that issue figured out, didn't he? After 1978, he pitched in 514 more games, but none in relief.

Dave Rozema, 1977

Acquired: Drafted in the fourth round (No. 71) in 1975

MLB debut: April 11, 1977, at Toronto; no-decision, 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2BB, 3 SO

The pride of Grand Rapids cracked the rotation out of spring training and didn't take long to make his mark. Three starts into his MLB career, at age 20, the right-hander collected his first shutout and set a pattern of finishing what he started. In 28 starts, he threw 16 complete games, including eight in a row at one point. In all, he was 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA and finished fourth in AL rookie of the year voting (future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray won). But did overuse ruin him? His first two years, he threw 427 1/3 innings; never again did he reach double digits in victories.

Mark Fidrych, 1976

Acquired: Drafted in the 10th round (No. 232) in 1974

MLB debut: April 20, 1976, at Oakland; no-decision, 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO

Probably the most famous rookie in modern baseball history, the zany, 21-year-old right-hander was a major draw in every town in which he took the self-manicured mound. He was 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA as the first Tigers rookie of the year since Harvey Kuenn in 1953. What stood out most about The Bird at least, from a statistical standpoint was the 24 complete games he threw that year, which, for perspective, is just one fewer than Andy Pettitte's entire 15-year career. Five of Fidrych's gems were 10 innings or longer, and he averaged 8.6 innings per start.

Denny McLain, 1964

Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent in 1962

MLB debut: Sept. 21, 1963, vs. White Sox; win, CG, 7 H, ER, 4 BB, 8 S0

The right-hander made his debut as a 19-year-old the previous September, tossing two complete games in his first three starts, but it wasn't until June of 1964 that he got an extended look. He was humbled along the way, with five of 16 starts lasting fewer than five innings. But in the finale, in the nightcap of a doubleheader on the second-to-last day of the season, he tossed a nine-inning gem in winning at Yankee Stadium, 5-2, to finish 4-5 with a 4.05 ERA. That outing proved a glimpse of the near future. From 1965-69, he was 108-51 with two Cy Youngs and an MVP.

Mickey Lolich, 1963

Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent in 1958

MLB debut: May 12, 1963, vs. Indians; no-decision, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

The 22-year-old left-hander split his time pretty evenly as a rookie between the bullpen (15 games) and starting rotation (18), with the ERA better as a starter (3.06-6.43) but, oddly, opponents' batting average was superior as a reliever (.244-.268). His first complete game came in his second career start, May 28, a 3-1 victory over the California Angels, whom he limited to one run on eight hits. For the year, he was a ho-hum 5-9 with a 3.55 ERA, not much of a sign of becoming the franchise's all-time leader in strikeouts (2,679), starts (459) and shutouts (39).

Hal Newhouser, 1940

Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent in 1939

MLB debut: 1939; Pre-1954 game logs are unavailable to Baseball-Reference.com

Born and raised in Detroit, he cracked the rotation out of spring training in 1940 as a lanky 18-year-old. Control was the prime issue during the left-hander's first full season; he averaged a walk fewer than every two innings and finished 9-9 with a 4.86 ERA. Who would've thought then that Newhouser would go on to become the first and still the only pitcher to enter the Hall of Fame as a Tiger? From 1944-48, he was one of the game's elites. Denied entry into the military for Word War II because of a heart condition, he went 118-56 with two MVPs in that five-year span.
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