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MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 31064513 MLB's most-hyped pitching phenoms MLB%27s+most-hyped+pitching+phenoms MLB

Before he even pitched to a single batter in the US, Yu Darvish created quite a stir. The Texas Rangers bid $51.7 million just for the right to negotiate with the Japanese phenom, eventually signing him to a $60 million, six-year deal.


Hype creates hope but history says that doesn’t always guarantee success.


Here are 10 of the most hyped big-league starting debuts since the beginning of divisional play in 1969.


— Tracy Ringolsby

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272364 Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals Stephen+Strasburg%2C+RHP%2C+Washington+Nationals MLB

The No. 1 pick in 2009's June draft, Stephen Strasburg made a much ballyhooed debut on June 8, 2010, and quickly proved the hype was justified. Unfortunately, after 12 starts, he injured his prized elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of 2010 and most of 2011. Upon his return in September 2011, a fully recovered Strasburg continued his assault on NL batters.

Doug Benc/Getty Images - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11271954 David Clyde, LHP, Texas Rangers David+Clyde%2C+LHP%2C+Texas+Rangers MLB

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 draft, Clyde went directly from Westchester High School in Houston, where he was 18-0 and allowed three runs in 148 innings, to the Rangers, a financially strapped club that needed something to spark attendance. Clyde did that, debuting at age 18 on June 27, 1973, treating the first sellout in Rangers history to a 4-3 victory against Minnesota in which he gave up two runs, one hit and seven walks in five innings. "It didn’t do much for his career, but his arrival saved the franchise,’’ said Rangers coach Jackie Moore. In their first year in Texas after moving from Washington, DC, the Rangers averaged 27,000 for Clyde’s six starts and only 6,000 for their other games. Clyde fell victim to arm injuries, finishing with an 18-33 big-league record in parts of five seasons with Texas and Cleveland.

- AP Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272003 Fernando Valenzuela, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers Fernando+Valenzuela%2C+LHP%2C+Los+Angeles+Dodgers MLB

A Mexican phenom, Valenzuela signed with the Dodgers at age 17 in 1979, and got to the big leagues at the end of the 1980 season, working 17 2/3 shutout innings in 10 relief appearances. That set the stage for the 1981 season when Fernandomania grabbed hold of the Hispanic community in Southern California, fueled by Valenzuela’s 2-0, five-hit shutout of Houston in his first big-league start on May 19. He won his first eight starts, including five shutouts and seven complete games, and went nine innings in a 10-inning victory in the other. He became the only pitcher to win a Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in the same season, and wound up with a 17-year big-league career in which he went 173-153.

Mike Powell/Getty Images - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 30875023 Mark Fidrych, RHP, Detroit Tigers Mark+Fidrych%2C+RHP%2C+Detroit+Tigers MLB

A 10th-round draft choice in 1974, "The Bird" (so nicknamed because a coach thought he resembled Big Bird of Sesame Street) caught the public’s attention with his long, curly locks and zany antics during a six-start stay at Triple-A Evansville in 1975. He went 4-0 with a 1.58 ERA in six games, but more noteworthy was his habit of talking to the baseball and crouching down to groom the dirt on the mound. In 1976 he made two relief appearances, then made his starting debut with a two-hit, 2-1 win against Cleveland. He went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games that rookie season, but was only 10-10 the remainder of his career.

Rich Pilling/MLB Photos - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11271854 Hideo Nomo, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers Hideo+Nomo%2C+RHP%2C+Los+Angeles+Dodgers MLB

Nomo was the first major arrival from Japan, which added to the lore of the 26-year-old right-hander's debut on May 2, 1995 when he worked five shutout innings in a 2-1 win at San Francisco. He went going 7-0 in his first eight starts, and wound up earning NL Rookie of the Year honors. In a 12-year career that included time with the Dodgers, Boston, Detroit, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay, he threw two no-hitters, including the only one ever at Coors Field, and compiled a 123-109 record and 4.24 ERA.

MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272006 Kerry Wood, RHP, Chicago Cubs Kerry+Wood%2C+RHP%2C+Chicago+Cubs MLB

The Cubs' first pick in the 1995 draft out of Grand Prairie, Texas, Wood made his debut as a 21-year-old phenom on April 12, 1998, in Montreal, where the Cubs felt there would be less attention. He lost that game, giving up four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven, but bounced back six days later to shut out the Dodgers for five innings in an 8-1 victory. Wood was moved to the bullpen in 2007 in an attempt to ease injury problems. He played for the Indians and Yankees between 2009 and 2010 before returning to finish his career with the Cubs. He retired on May 18, 2012, with an 86-75 record, 3.67 ERA and 178 saves.

MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11271953 Dwight Gooden, RHP, New York Mets Dwight+Gooden%2C+RHP%2C+New+York+Mets MLB

Gooden was the Mets’ first-round pick in 1981, the fifth player drafted overall. In his first full pro season, he was 19-4 with a 2.50 ERA for Lynchburg, and even though it was a Single-A affiliate, he became the talk of Shea Stadium, and opened the 1984 season in the Mets rotation. He debuted on April 7, 1984 at Houston, allowing one run in five innings, and finished the season 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He added a Cy Young Award in 1985, and appeared in four All-Star games. He spent all or parts of 16 years in the big leagues, going 194-112.

MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272005 Mark Prior, RHP, Chicago Cubs Mark+Prior%2C+RHP%2C+Chicago+Cubs MLB

Prior was so polished when he came out of USC in 2001 that the Minnesota Twins were ridiculed for taking high school catcher Joe Mauer with the No. 1 pick overall, allowing Prior to slip to the Cubs, who picked second. He was considered the most refined amateur pitcher to come to the big leagues, and after going 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA in nine minor-league starts in 2002, he made his Cubs debut on May 22 that season, allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-4 victory against Pittsburgh. A series of arm injuries limited him to five years and 106 starts in the big leagues in which he was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA.

STEVE SCHAEFER/AFP/Getty Images - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272009 Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Boston Red Sox Daisuke+Matsuzaka%2C+RHP%2C+Boston+Red+Sox MLB

Matsuzaka was a finished product when he was signed with Boston at age 26. Recruited by Arizona and Colorado when he came out of high school in Japan, he instead was the first pick overall in the 1998 Japanese draft, and signed with Seibu, where he was a six-time All-Star in an eight-year stretch leading up to him being allowed to come to the United States for the 2007 season. Boston bid $51.1 million for the right to negotiate with Dice-K — more than double Seibu’s payroll — and then signed him to a six-year, $52 million deal. With a horde of Japanese media to chronicle his every move, he made his big-league debut by working seven innings, striking out 10, in a 4-1 win at Cleveland on April 5, 2007. He was 33-15 in his first two seasons with Boston, but was only 16-15 in the next three seasons, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2011.

Elsa/Getty Images - Getty Images
MLB 49 43 Most hyped pitching debuts of the modern era 11272008 Ben McDonald, RHP, Baltimore Orioles Ben+McDonald%2C+RHP%2C+Baltimore+Orioles MLB

The No. 1 pick overall in 1989, McDonald was a hard thrower that the Orioles felt would lead to the revival of the franchise. They broke him in slowly — sort of. In September 1989 he made six relief appearances, and then was in the bullpen again when he joined the big-league team in 1990. His first start was a memorable one, a four-hit, 2-0 win against the Chicago White Sox on July 21, 1990. He spent all or part of nine years in the big leagues with the Orioles and Milwaukee, finishing with a 78-70 record and 3.91 ERA.

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