Several nations combine as one on Rangers
Texas' Opening Day lineup could feature players from eight countries
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas manager Ron Washington confirmed that right-hander Yu Darvish would start the Rangers' regular-season opener, and added, "which is no surprise."
What did surprise Washington was the fact that, with Darvish on the mound, the Rangers' projected Opening Day lineup will include players representing a record eight nationalities.
"I never thought about nationalities," said Washington, a Louisiana-born African-American. "I thought about baseball players. All these guys are good players."
In addition to Darvish on the mound, Texas' starting lineup (health permitting) against Philadelphia on March 31 will include catcher Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), second baseman Jurickson Profar (Curacao), shortstop Elvis Andrus (Venezuela), third baseman Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic), left fielder Shin-Soo Choo (South Korea), center fielder Leonys Martin (Cuba) and American-born right fielder Armando Rios, first baseman Prince Fielder and designated hitter Mitch Moreland. Rios did grow up in Puerto Rico, although he was born in Mississippi.
"To me," said Washington, "they are all baseball players and I'm looking for the best baseball players."
The players agree.
"When we're out there on the field, we're all from the same country," said Andrus. "Where you come from, or you nationality, actually doesn't matter. When we're all together, we're family."
The Rangers' previous high for nationalities on an Opening Day roster (not lineup) was seven, in 2013, when the 25-man roster featured 13 American-born players, six from the Dominican Republic, two from Venezuela, and one each from Cuba, Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Since Major League Baseball began tracking nationalities of Opening Day rosters in 1997, there has never been a team with more than eight nationalities on an Opening Day roster, and none had eight in the Opening Day lineup.
The 2008 Seattle Mariners had seven nationalities in the Opening Day lineup: catcher Kenji Johjima and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki from Japan, second baseman Jose Lopez of Venezuela, third baseman Beltre of the Dominican Republic, Jose Vidro of Puerto Rico, starting pitcher Erik Bedard of Canada and American-born first baseman Richie Sexson and right fielder Brad Wilkerson.
Other teams with eight nationalities on Opening Day rosters were the 2005 Baltimore Orioles, '06 and '11 Los Angeles Dodgers and '09 Atlanta Braves.
The 2006 Dodgers lineup featured five American-born players, plus catcher Sandy Alomar and left fielder Jose Cruz from Puerto Rico, shortstop Rafael Furcal from the Dominican Republic and first baseman Olmedo Saenz of Panama.
The Orioles' 2005 Opening Day lineup featured third baseman Melvin Mora of Venezuela, shortstop Miguel Tejada and right fielder Sammy Sosa of the Dominican Republic, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro of Cuba, catcher Javy Lopez and center fielder Luis Matos of Puerto Rico, starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez of Mexico and three American-born players.
The 2011 Dodgers featured seven American-born players, plus shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Juan Uribe, both from the Dominican Republic. The 2009 Braves had a lineup of eight American-born players and Cuban shortstop Yunel Escobar.
MLB's study also showed that during the course of a season the most non-American players to appear in a game for a team was 18 players, representing seven countries other than the United States, for the Mets in 2010. The Yankees (in 2011) and the Nationals (in 2005) both had 16 non-Americans appear in games.
The 2014 season will mark the 50th anniversary of Masanori Murakami becoming the first Japanese player to appear in the big leagues. Murakami debuted on Sept. 1, 1964, and he spent the 1965 season with the Giants before returning to Japan. He was 5-1 with nine saves and a 3.43 ERA in 54 big league games, one of which was a start.
It was another 30 years before Hideo Nomo debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the second Japanese big leaguer. Nomo is the winningest Japanese-born pitcher in Major League history, with 123 victories.
While with the Dodgers, Nomo pitched the only no-hitter in the history of Coors Field on Sept. 17, 1996. While he was pitching for Boston, Nomo also no-hit Baltimore on April 4, 2001, in the only no-hitter in the history of Camden Yards.
Kazuhiro Sasaki is the all-time Japanese leader in saves with 129 for Seattle from 2000-03.
There have been 59 Japanese-born players to appear in the big leagues, including 13 in 2013. Forty-one of the 59 have been pitchers.
Nomo pitched the only no-hitters in the history of Coors Field and Camden Yards, but no one has pitched a no-hitter yet in the new Busch Stadium (opened 2006), Minute Maid Park ('00), Nationals Park ('08), Target Field ('10) and Yankee Stadium ('09).
Johan Santana not only pitched first the first no-hitter at Citi Field against St. Louis on June 1, 2012, but also the first in Mets history. The Mets were in their 51st season and had gone a record 8,020 games since their inception without a no-hitter. The Padres are the only big league team that has never had one of its pitchers throw a no-hitters. But the Friars, who came into existence in 1969 (seven years after the Mets), have played "only" 7,164 games.
Among current ballparks, the most no-hitters have been thrown at Fenway Park (14). There have been 10 tossed at Dodger Stadium, including three by Sandy Koufax. Nolan Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters, and he did it in six ballparks -- two at Anaheim Stadium and one each at Kauffman Stadium, Tiger Stadium, the Astrodome, O.co Coliseum and Arlington Stadium.
Jim Fregosi managed Philadelphia to the World Series in 1993. He spent his final 13 years as a special assignment scout with Atlanta. It's fitting that on Wednesday, when the Braves play the Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., the Phils will hold a memorial service for Fregosi.
It's not the only recognition the Phillies will have for Fregosi this spring. In the press room, where scouts gather regularly before games, a table where Fregosi frequently held court is covered with a black table cloth. On top of the table is a red rose in a vase and a picture of Fregosi in a Phils uniform.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.