Today’s Trivia: Matt Stairs tied a major league record on Monday just by getting into the game. In making his Padres debut, Stairs has now played for 12 different teams, which ties Deacon McGuire (who played from 1884 to 1912) for the most ever by a position player. Pitchers Mike Morgan and Ron Villone can also claim 12 teams. Stairs had been tied for second with an eclectic group: Royce Clayton, Todd Zeile, Kenny Lofton and Paul Bako. Since breaking into the big leagues in 1992, Stairs has had more than 600 teammates. Who are Stairs’ only two former teammates currently in the Hall of Fame?
Jason Heyward In Context: Jason Heyward was 317 days old when Bobby Cox was hired by the Braves to replace Russ Nixon as manager in 1990. On Monday, as Cox managed his final Opening Day, Heyward stole the show. Not only did Heyward homer in his first career plate appearance, he did so with his first swing, depositing a 2-0 Carlos Zambrano pitch deep to right. That won’t do much to lessen the hype surrounding the phenom, who is just 20 years and 240 days old right now. Let’s put his accomplishment in context:
-- According the Elias Sports Bureau, Heyward is the youngest player to homer in his first at-bat since Cincinnati’s Ted Tappe in 1950. Whitey Lockman was 20 days shy of his 19th birthday when he hit a home run in his first at-bat for the Giants in 1945. That makes Heyward the third youngest to do it according to Elias.
-- Perhaps the Braves should start more rookies on Opening Day. Last year, Jordan Schafer homered in the opener in his first career plate appearance. He was the first rookie to start on Opening Day for the Braves since Chipper Jones. Before Schafer, the last player to homer on Opening Day in his first plate appearance was Kazuo Matsui in 2004. Before that it was Will Clark in 1986.
-- Another gem from Elias: Only two players who homered in their first major league at-bat are in the Hall of Fame: Earl Averill (who did it for the 1929 Indians) and Hoyt Wilhelm (for the 1952 New York Giants). It was the only home run of Wilhelm's big league career.
-- Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon points out that Frank Howard’s 382 career homers are the most ever for a player who hit a home run in his first game. Other notables: Orlando Cepeda, Yogi Berra, Bobby Bonds.
Quote of the Day: "I was yelling 'Balk' as soon as he threw it." - Phillies catcher Brian Schneider on President Obama’s pitch, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Highest career win percentage in April among active pitchers (min. 10 decisions)
Today’s Leaderboard: It’s April, which means it is Joe Saunders’ month to shine. The Angels lefty, who makes his season debut tonight against the Twins, is 10-1 in April in his career. That’s the best April win percentage of any pitcher (minimum 10 decisions) over the last 50 years. Among active players, Joe Nathan’s 9-1 April record is the next best. April magic will be put to its greatest test on Thursday when Dontrelle Willis and his 14-2 record take the hill.
Matchups of the Day: A pair of interesting head-to-head battles in Anaheim tonight. Bobby Abreu is a lifetime .538 hitter against Nick Blackburn. Only Chone Figgins (.563) has flummoxed Blackburn more. (Side note: Figgins draws Dallas Braden tonight, against whom he is a .538 hitter.) But there’s an even more intriguing matchup to watch: Joe Mauer is 0-8 lifetime against Joe Saunders. His last three at-bats were infield groundouts. Mike Mussina is the only other pitcher against whom Mauer is hitless in at least eight at-bats.
Joe Mauer's most career at-bats against a pitcher without a hit
Trivia Answer: Stairs’ longest stop on his odyssey was in Oakland from 1996 to 2000. In 1998, he played with Rickey Henderson. His second Hall of Fame teammate is a bit tougher to get, but Baseball-Reference.com’s Oracle tool comes to the rescue. In his initial cup of coffee with the Expos in 1992 (13 games), Stairs teamed up with Gary Carter, who was in his final season.