Geraldo Guzman, July 6, 2000: 8 IP., 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
If there was ever proof that one swallow does not make a summer - or even two - it's Guzman, who followed up this spot start with a sophomore one, three weeks later, where he threw eight shutout innings of four-hit ball, with nine K's. No other pitcher has begun their career with consecutive eight-inning starts allowing one or zero runs since, curiously, D-backs radio guy Tom Candiotti in 1983. It was a real fairy-tale opening, since Guzman had abandoned the majors due to elbow issues in 1990, and worked for seven years as a carpenter in his native Dominican Republic before being spotted by Junior Noboa in a semi-pro league, and being signed by Arizona.
But the magic didn't last for Guzman. The rest of the season, his ERA was north of seven, and after a handful of bullpen appearances for the Diamondbacks in 2001, he was released. I've not been able to find out what happened to him after that: he was not apparently signed by another team, even as a minor-leaguer, and there's no indication he ever played professional baseball again.
Honorable mention: Brandon Webb
Webb certainly had the best first start in the major-leagues. In the first game of a double-header against the Mets, on Apr 27, 2003, he blanked them for seven innings, on three hits and a walk, with 10 strikeouts. The Game Score there was 80, compared to Guzman's 72. However, it wasn't actually Webb's debut, which came five days previously, throwing a largely forgettable scoreless inning to close out a 4-0 loss to the Expos in Montreal. But, just as a marker, no pitcher since then has made their first appearance in a contest where they have reached double-digit K's along with even six shutout innings.
Max Scherzer: Apr 29, 2008: 4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
This is something of a cheat, because Scherzer is much better known as a starter. However, his debut was out of the 'pen, and that's where he made most of his appearances in 2008. It came after Edgar Gonzalez had been slapped around to the tune of eight hits and six runs by the Houston Astros - or, as we put it, "Mad Max replaces Bad Mex." Scherzer simply came in and retired all 13 batters faced. The Padres' Chris Oxspring is the only other pitcher since 1986 with seven relief strikeouts in their major-league debut. Scherzer said, "I’m just happy to go out there and get it out of the way. I felt comfortable out there, not nervous at all. I just tried to go out there and do my thing."
We know where it went from there. Scherzer, along with Daniel Schlereth was part of a blockbuster trade in Dec 2009, with the Tigers and Yankees, which brought Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to the desert. Good though the trade worked out for us (especially after we spun Jackson into Daniel Hudson), there are still vague pangs of loss at not seeing how the heterochromatic pitcher developed. He has been decent for Detroit (107 ERA+ in close to 100 starts over 2010-12), though we may have been guilty of a little hype when we said, "Tonight may be one of those games we look back on in twenty years and say, "Yes, I remember seeing Scherzer make his major-league debut.""
Honorable mention: Josh Collmenter
As we saw last week, Collmenter will do whatever is asked of him. That was apparent right out of the game, when he was dropped in to a multi-inning outing during extra innings of a tied game on Apr 17th, 2011, against the reigning World Series champion Giants. Collmenter retired all six batters faced, and got the W in the bottom of the 12th, thanks to a Stephen Drew RBI single. He joined Clay Zavada as the only Diamondbacks players to come out of the bullpen and win their debuts, and the +26.3% WPA was tied for the second-best number by any Arizona reliever that season.
Felipe Lopez: Apr 6, 2009: 2-for-4, two HR, BB, two RBI, two runs
Lopez set the mark with eight total bases and is the only player in team history to go deep twice in his debut for the club, doing so on Opening Day of the 2009 season. He homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning, and did it again in the fourth. What's particularly noteworthy, is that the switch-hitting Lopez became the first batter to homer from both sides of the plate on Opening Day, as his first blast came left-handed, off Aaron Cook, and the second one right-handed, against Glendon Rusch. However, its status as a singular feat lasted all of one inning. For in the fifth frame, Tony Clark repeated the task, with his second home-run of the afternoon.
Lopez, funnily enough, fell short of the anticipated pace of 324 home-runs that season - it was the last of his three career multi-homer appearances. Indeed, after hitting those two in his first three trips to the plate, he added only seven the rest of the way that season, in 150 more games and 677 additional PAs. Much of his playing time was with Milwaukee, where he was traded in a July deal after the Diamondbacks fell out of contention.
Honorable mention: Trent Oeltjen
Oeltjen certainly had the best start to the career of any Diamondback - indeed, one of the very best ever by any player. Over his first five appearances in August 2009, Oeltjen had four multi-hit games, including a 4-for-4 performance, and went 12-for-24 with an overall line of .500/.500/1.042. He became the quickest player in major-league history to get 12 hits with three home-runs. However, as with Guzman, that was unfortunately not the shape of things to come. After our favorite Aussie's red-hot start in the majors, he has gone 24-for-140, a .171 clip, for us and the Dodgers, and is currently playing in Triple-A for the Angels.