Heading into Arizona this weekend and here’s the lineup, followed by some good historical info on J-Mac.
Ethier, RF (Birthday boy, for all you Ethierholics)
James McDonald will join some select company in Dodger history tonight when he makes his first Major League start in Arizona while beginning the season in the Los Angeles rotation. The last two Dodger pitchers coming off a full season in the Los Angeles minor leagues to make such a leap are Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Don Sutton (1966).
Sutton spent only one year in the Dodger minor league system in 1965, posting a combined 23-7 record in 31 starts at Single-A Santa Barbara and Double-A Albuquerque. At age 21, Sutton went 12-12 with a 2.99 ERA in 37 games (35 starts) in 1966 to help the Dodgers win the National League pennant. Sutton also gave Los Angeles a rotation with three future Hall of Famers, along with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
The Dodgers purchased Valenzuela’s contract from Puebla of the Mexican League on July 6, 1979. He went 13-9 with a 3.10 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) at Double-A San Antonio in 1980. After a September 1980 promotion, Valenzuela went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances.
Both Sutton and Valenzuela faced lofty expectations. Sutton was joining the starting rotation of a defending World Series champion with no previous Major League experience. Valenzuela was asked to make his first Major League start on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium after injuries sidelined veterans Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton. The 20-year-old Valenzuela calmly responded with a complete-game shutout against the Astros.
In his first eight starts, Valenzuela went 8-0 with a 0.50 ERA, five shutouts and eight complete games to trigger “Fernandomania” throughout the United States and his native Mexico. He remains the only player to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards in the same season and still the only Major Leaguer since 1981 to win his first eight career starts.