Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who were part of the 1971 team.
Tom McCreery, outfielder for the 1898-1900 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1894, playing with Norfolk of the Virginia League (no stats available). He remained in Norfolk for part of the 1895 season, where they league became classified as a Class-B level of play. McCreery did some pitching that season as well. He hit .242 in 19 games with Norfolk, while also going 1-3, 1.87 in five starts/complete games.He also saw some time with Nashville of the Class-B Southern League, though no stats are available. He made it to the majors with the Louisville Colonels in June of 1895 and hit .324/.376/.370 with 18 runs and ten RBIs in 31 games, while also going 3-1, 5.36 in 48.2 innings. He would pitch just four innings total after the 1895 season because his play in the outfield was more valuable. In 1896 for Louisville, he hit .351 with 87 runs, 23 doubles, 21 triples (led the National League), seven homers, 65 RBIs, 26 steals and a .956 OPS in 115 games. He had the eighth highest OPS in the league that season. In 1897, McCreery batted .279 with 55 runs, 15 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs in 91 games for Louisville before being traded to the New York Giants in August. He batted .299 with 39 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 49 games after the deal. Due to the timing of the trade, he finished with a league leading 140 games played, despite the fact that Louisville played 135 games that year and the Giants played 137. He also led the league in strikeouts for the second straight season, and his 30 sacrifice hits were the most in the league. After hitting just .198/.307/.306 in 35 games for the 1898 Giants, McCreery was released in early July.
The Pirates signed McCreery just two days after he was released by the Giants, and they put him right in the starting lineup. He finished the 1898 season by batting .311 in 53 games, with 33 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. He batted .324 in 119 games during the 1899 season, finishing with 77 runs, 21 doubles, nine triples, three homers, 65 RBIs and an .818 OPS. The Pirates added a ton of talent in the 17-player “Honus Wagner trade” with Louisville following the 1899 season. That influx of quality players left McCreery without a full-time spot in 1900, limiting him to a .220/.304/.318 slash line in 43 games. After playing sparingly that year, he decided to retire over the off-season. That lasted about ten days, when Ned Hanlon, who was the manager of Brooklyn, convinced him to sign. McCreery was a .303 hitter in 215 games for the Pirates, and he batted .320 in his three years/237 games with Louisville. Despite the two solid runs with different teams, McCreery finished as a .289 hitter over nine seasons in the majors. In his three partial seasons with Brooklyn at the end of his career, he batted .264 in 243 games and saw a 100+ point drop to his OPS.
McCreery hit .290 over 91 games in 1901, with 47 runs scored, 14 triples, 53 RBIs and a .788 OPS. The next year he batted .244 in 112 games, with 49 runs scored, 57 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. His OPS dropped down to .604, in part due to just 16 extra-base hits. He spent the early part of 1903 in Brooklyn, hitting .262/.354/.326 in 40 games. McCreery played minor league ball in the middle of the 1903 season with Minneapolis of the Class-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), then finished up the year and his big league time with the Boston Beaneaters, where he batted .217/.294/.301 in 23 games. He would play in Indianapolis of the American Association in 1904 and 1905, totaling 302 games, and he finished with a .303 average each season. He had 20 doubles, 19 triples and nine homers in 154 games in 1904. McCreery collected 19 doubles, 14 triples and three homers in 148 games in 1905. His pro career ended with a short stint at Columbus of the American Association in 1907, despite hitting .311 in 37 games. In his big league career, he batted .289 in 802 games, with 465 runs scored, 99 doubles, 76 triples, 27 homers, 388 RBIs and 116 steals. He led the NL in outfield errors in 1897, then led the league in errors at first base in 1902.
Tom Lovelace, pinch-hitter for the 1922 Pirates. On September 23, 1922, Lovelace hit for pitcher Hal Carlson in the ninth inning and lined out to second base. That ended up being his entire big league career. He played 11 seasons of minor league ball, mostly after his only big league game. He debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1920 with the Ranger Nitros of the West Texas League, a Class-D level of play. He batted .267 with 23 extra-base hits in 102 games that year. He appeared to be playing for a semi-pro team in Oklahoma in 1921. The Pirates purchased him on September 7, 1922 after he hit .332 with 61 extra-base hits in 146 games over two levels in the minors, starting at Class-D Greenville of the Texas-Oklahoma League (64 games), before moving up to Class-A Dallas of the Texas League, where he hit just as well. Lovelace joined the Pirates ten days later and he actually played a little more than you see on paper. On September 25th, he started in left field against the Detroit Tigers in an exhibition game and went 0-for-3. Three days later he finished an exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians, going 0-for-1 while playing left field. Lovelace was released to the Dallas team of the Texas League on November 3, 1922, where he was when the Pirates acquired him. They had the ability to get him back if needed during the 1923 season, but Lovelace ended up breaking his leg and missing two months of the season.
After he was released by the Pirates, there was an article passed around that said Lovelace had particular trouble using the newly-invented sunglasses from Fred Clarke, which attached to the brim of the cap and folded down. He was used to the regular sunglasses, but didn’t have them with him when he joined the Pirates. From the report, Lovelace had quite an adventure on every fly ball that day because of the brutal sun field in left field. He continued to play all the way up until 1932 without getting another shot at the majors. He spent a lot of that time in Texas, playing for Dallas for parts/all of the 1922-25 seasons. He also played for Corsicana of the Class-D Texas Association during the 1924-27 seasons, and San Antonio of the Texas League for part of 1924. It’s missing from his online records, but he was with Nashville of the Class-A Southern Association in the first half of 1928, and he played for Columbus of the Class-B Southeastern League in the second half. Lovelace spent the 1929-30 seasons with Canton of the Class-B Central League, and the 1931-32 seasons with Binghamton of the Class-B New York-Penn League. His 1923 stats are missing, though they are limited due to the missed time. In 1924, he hit .279 in 97 games, with 17 doubles, eight triples and nine homers, seeing time with Dallas, San Antonio and Corsicana.
Lovelace hit .158 over ten games with Dallas in 1925. His stats with Corsicana that year are unavailable. He spent the entire 1926 season in Corsicana, batting .317 in 113 games, with 20 doubles, seven triples and 22 homers. Corsicana was in the Class-D Lone Star League in 1927, where he hit .316 with five doubles and two homers in 19 games. His only other pro time that year was three early seasons games with Oakland of the Pacific Coast League and a short time with Muskogee of the Class-C Western Association. He batted .279 with 13 extra-base hits in 49 games for Nashville in 1928, then went to Columbus in early July, where he hit .280 with seven doubles, two triples and 14 homers in 63 games. He found a home with Canton during the 1929-30 seasons. Lovelace hit .278 in 115 games in 1929, with 75 runs, 23 doubles, six triples, 15 homers 62 RBIs, 66 walks and an .847 OPS. In 1930, he batted .380 in 139 games, with 31 doubles, 18 triples and 12 homers. He played eight games with Shreveport of the Texas League in 1931, but a majority of the season (and part of his 1932 season) was spent with Binghamton. He hit .290 with 38 extra-base hits in 137 games in 1931, then finished up his career with a .308 average in 25 games in 1932. Binghamton actually released Lovelace before the 1932 season started. He spent the first part of that year with South Bend of the Class-B Central League, but when he was released he returned to Binghamton. He batted .250 with six doubles and two triples in 38 games with South Bend.
Don Leppert, catcher for the 1961-62 Pirates. He got his pro career started after college, signing with the Milwaukee Braves prior to the 1955 season. He debuted at 23 years old in Class-B ball, playing 58 games for Corpus Christi of the Big State League and 19 games for Evansville of the Three-I League. He combined to hit .260 with 40 runs, 13 doubles, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and an .843 OPS in 77 games. In 1956, Leppert moved up to Triple-A to play for Wichita of the American Association. He hit .230 with 19 runs, eight doubles, eight homers, 21 RBIs and a .721 OPS in 70 games. In 1957, he played his first of two seasons with Austin of the Double-A Texas League. He batted .233 with 45 runs, 16 doubles, 20 homers, 59 RBIs and a .724 OPS in 119 games in 1957. He then posted a .229 average in 85 games in 1958, with 25 runs, four doubles, 11 homers, 28 RBIs and a .676 OPS. He played five games for Austin in 1959, but most of the season was spent in Triple-A with Dallas of the American Association. He had a .270 average that season, with 45 runs, 17 doubles, 13 homers, 66 RBIs and a .745 OPS in 132 games. Leppert put up a .256 average in 118 games with Dallas (then called Dallas-Fort Worth) in 1960, finishing with 41 runs, 18 doubles, 17 homers, 63 RBIs and a .772 OPS.
The Pirates acquired Leppert over the 1960-61 off-season in a one-for-three trade that sent three minor league players to the Braves, two of them with prior big league experience. He came up to the Pirates on June 15, 1961 after Pittsburgh sold backup catcher Bob Oldis to Columbus of the Triple-A International League. Leppert was already 29 years old at the time, with no big league experience, but he was hitting .386 in 39 games with Columbus, putting up a 1.047 OPS. His big league career started with a bang. He homered on a full count in his first career at-bat after taking the first five pitches from Curt Simmons of the St Louis Cardinals. He ended up hitting .267/.279/.483 with three homers and five RBIs in 22 games for the 1961 Pirates. In 1962, he hit .266/.327/.389 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 45 games. In December of 1962, the Pirates traded him to the Washington Senators for a minor league player and cash. Leppert was an All-Star during the 1963 season, despite hitting .237 in 73 games. His .679 OPS was lower than both years in Pittsburgh, though he set career highs with 20 runs, 11 doubles, six homers and 24 RBIs. He had a rough season throwing out runners that year, with a 14% success rate. That All-Star selection is partially explained by the fact that he saw less playing time and had worse results in the second half.
In his final season in the majors in 1963, Leppert hit .156 in 50 games, with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .478 OPS. He played two years in the minors before retiring. In 1964, he played for Hawaii of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .338 in 61 games, with 13 runs, five doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs. His final season of pro ball was spent back in Columbus (still a Pirates affiliate at the time), where he hit .229 in 66 games, with nine runs, three extra-base hits that were all homers, and 13 RBIs. After finishing out his playing career, he became a minor league manager for one year, leading Gastonia of the Class-A Western Carolinas League (a Pirates affiliate) to a 61-59 record. He was a Major League coach with the Pirates from 1968 through 1976. Leppert hit .229 with 46 runs, 22 doubles, 15 homers and 59 RBIs in 190 games in the majors. He turns 91 today (he passed away in April of 2023).
Rimp Lanier, late season pinch-hitter for the 1971 Pirates. He was a 37th round draft pick of the Pirates out of high school in 1967. He played seven seasons in the minors for the Pirates, spending three seasons in Double-A and three seasons in Triple-A. He debuted in pro ball at 18 years old, playing that 1967 season with Salem of the short-season Appalachian League, where he hit .290 in 50 games, with 33 runs, 39 walks, 14 steals and a .752 OPS. He had just four extra-base hits, all doubles. In 1968, Lanier played for Clinton of the Class-A Midwest League, where he batted .313 in 120 games, with 99 runs, 21 doubles, 12 triples, four homers, 46 RBIs, 39 steals and a .911 OPS. Those four homers he hit that year are one more than he hit in his other six years of pro ball combined. He moved up to York of the Double-A Eastern League for the 1969 season. Lanier hit .287 in 136 games, with 88 runs scored, 15 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs, 34 steals, 108 walks and a .742 OPS. He was in Triple-A in 1970 with Columbus of the International League, where he hit .329 with 98 runs scored, 25 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 20 steals, 113 walks and an .885 OPS in 129 games. That performance didn’t get him a call-up to the majors, but it did earn him a look in Spring Training in 1971.
Lanier debuted with the Pirates on September 11, 1971 after hitting .272 with 51 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs, 22 steals and 66 walks for Charleston of the International League. In six big league games, he pinch-hit five times and pinch-ran once, going 0-for-4 at the plate with a hit-by-pitch. The Pirates won the World Series that year and when the players voted playoff shares, Lanier was one of three players who received a $250 cash award. Only one player ($100 for Frank Brosseau) received less. A full share that year was worth over $18,000. Lanier was batting .365 with a .484 OBP in Double-A with Sherbrooke of the Eastern League in 1972, when he suffered a knee injury that limited him to 38 games on the season. When he returned from the injury, he went to Charleston, where he received just 21 plate appearances in 15 games with Charleston. He played just 59 games in 1973, hitting .178/.360/.221 for Sherbrooke. Lanier was released at the end of Spring Training in 1974, never fully recovering from his knee injury. He finished with a .428 OBP in 633 minor league games. He had 146 steals, along with a 511:280 BB/SO ratio. His actual first name is Lorenzo. He turns 74 today.
Jose Bautista, utility player for the 2004-08 Pirates. He was a .241 hitter with 43 homers in 400 games for the Pirates, but Bautista ended up with 344 homers over his 15-year career, spent with eight different clubs. The Pirates drafted him in the 20th round of the 2000 draft out of Chipola College at 19 years old. He was a draft-and-follow player, signing with the Pirates shortly before the deadline in May of 2001. He went to Williamsport of the short-season New York-Penn League during that 2001 season, where he hit .286 with 43 runs, ten doubles, five homers, 30 RBIs and a .792 OPS in 62 games. Bautista played for Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League in 2002, where he hit .301 with 72 runs, 26 doubles, 14 homers, 57 RBIs, 67 walks and an .872 OPS in 129 games. He was limited to 58 games due to injury in 2003, which led to the Pirates leaving him off of the 40-man roster after the season. Most of the year was spent with Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League, but he also played seven rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .255/.368/.804 that season, with 33 runs, 15 doubles, five homers and 23 RBIs. The Pirates lost him in the Rule 5 draft over the 2003-04 off-season, but they got him back in a trade with the New York Mets in July. He was actually selected by the Baltimore Orioles, but he ended up going to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, then the Kansas City Royals, then to the Mets, all during that 2004 season, before ending up back in Pittsburgh. Bautista batted .205 with a .502 OPS in 96 plate appearances over 68 games in 2004. He ended up seeing his most time that year with the Pirates, posting a .488 OPS in 43 plate appearances.
Bautista spent most of the 2005 season in Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League, where he hit .290 with 63 runs, 27 doubles, 23 homers, 90 RBIs and an .868 OPS in 130 games. He spent a brief time in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League, posting a .682 OPS in 13 games, then saw 11 games with the Pirates as a September recall. He hit .143/.226/.179 in 31 plate appearances during his second stint in Pittsburgh. He started 2006 in Indianapolis, posting a .795 OPS in 29 games, before he was up in the majors by early May for the rest of the season. Bautista hit .235 in 117 games in 2006, with 58 runs, 20 doubles, 16 homers, 51 RBIs and a .755 OPS. He was the starting third baseman for the Pirates for most of the 2007 season. He hit .254 with 75 runs, 36 doubles, 15 homers, 63 RBIs, 68 walks and a .753 OPS in 142 games. For the 2008 Pirates, he hit .242 with 38 runs, 15 doubles, 12 homers, 44 RBIs and a .729 OPS in 107 games, but he was sent to the minors when he didn’t want to switch off of third base. A short time later, he got traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league catcher Robinzon Diaz in August of 2008. He struggled with his new team until hitting coach Dwayne Murphy suggested a batting stance change late in the 2009 season, which Bautista claims helped him add power to his game. He batted just .214/.237/.411 in 21 games to end 2008, then hit .235 with 54 runs, 13 doubles, 13 homers and 40 RBIs in 113 games in 2009, which was padded by his late surge.
With that new batting stance in 2010, Bautista took off at the plate. He led the American League with 54 homers that season, in addition to his 109 runs scored, 35 doubles, 124 RBIs, 100 walks and a .995 OPS. He was an All-Star for the first of six straight seasons, won his first Silver Slugger award and he finished fourth in the MVP voting. In 2011, he hit .302 with 105 runs, 24 doubles, 43 homers, 103 RBIs and 132 walks. He won the Silver Slugger again, finished third in the MVP voting, and led the league in homers, walks, slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056). Bautista was an All-Star in both 2012-13, despite playing just 210 games total those seasons, missing over 100 games due to injury. He hit 55 homers, drove in 138 runs and walked 128 times during those two combined seasons, posting a .241 average and an .886 OPS in 92 games in 2012, and a .259 average and .856 OPS in 118 games in 2013. He was healthy in 2014 when he hit .286 with 101 runs, 27 doubles, 35 homers, 103 RBIs, 104 walks and a .928 OPS. He finished sixth in the MVP voting and won his final Silver Slugger award. In 2015, Bautista hit .250 with 108 runs, 29 doubles, 40 homers, 114 RBIs, a .913 OPS and a league leading 110 walks. He finished eighth in the MVP voting.
Bautista’s stats really started to drop off during the 2016 season. He hit .234 with 68 runs, 24 doubles, 22 homers, 69 RBIs, 87 walks and an .817 OPS in 116 games. The next year his OPS dropped to .674, despite 23 homers and 84 walks. He batted .203 in 157 games and struck out 170 times, 54 more strikeouts than his second highest season total. In his final season in the majors, he played for the Mets, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. He hit .203 with 52 runs, 18 doubles, 13 homers, 48 RBIs and 67 walks in 122 games. During his great run from 2010-15, he compiled 36.3 WAR. During his other nine seasons combined, he had 0.3 WAR. He finished with a .247 average in 1,798 games, with 1,022 runs scored, 312 doubles, 344 homers, 975 RBIs and 1,032 walks, leading to an .836 OPS. He had a .904 OPS and 16 RBIs in 20 playoff games during his career.
Rajai Davis, outfielder for the 2006-07 Pirates. The Pirates drafted him in the 38th round out of the University of Connecticut at Avery Point in 2001. He is the only one of six draft picks that the school has produced, who made it to the majors. Davis batted .240 with 20 runs in 32 games of short-season ball during his first season, collecting one extra-base hit (a double) and 11 steals. He played 26 of those games in the Gulf Coast League, then moved up to Williamsport of the New York-Penn League for six games. He spent most of the 2002 season in the Gulf Coast League as well, despite being 21 years old at the time in a league where the average age was 19 at the time. He hit .380 that season in 65 games, with 42 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 26 steals and a .981 OPS. Davis spent part of the 2002 season with Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League (he also played one game with Williamsport), then returned there for the entire 2003 season, where he hit .305 with 84 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 54 RBIs, 40 steals, 55 walks and a .799 OPS in 125 games. He moved up to High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League in 2004, where he hit .314 with 91 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 57 steals, 59 walks and an .812 OPS in 127 games. In 2005, Davis spent the entire season at Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League , where he batted .281 in 123 games, with 82 runs, 31 extra-base hits, 34 RBIs, 45 steals and a .720 OPS. After playing winter ball in Mexico, he moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League in 2006 and hit .283 with 53 runs, 20 extra-base hits, 45 steals and a .683 OPS in 100 games. He joined the Pirates in August as a bench player and batted just 17 times in 20 games, putting up a .464 OPS. He didn’t get any starts and was mostly used as a pinch-hitter. He played just one game on defense.
Davis batted .318/.384/.469 with 27 steals in 53 games at Indianapolis in 2007. He hit .271/.357/.354 in 24 games with the Pirates that year before being traded to the San Francisco Giants in the disastrous deal for Matt Morris on July 31, 2007. It was said after the deal that the Giants GM was just looking for a team to take Morris off their hands and they were willing to pay part of his salary for a warm body in return, but Pirates GM Dave Littlefield ended up sending two players to the Giants and took on the full remaining salary for Morris for 2007 and 2008. Davis made a horrible deal even worse by becoming a productive player. He batted .282/.363/.380 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 51 games for the Giants in 2007. In 2008, the Giants made a mistake by putting him on waivers after a slow start and he ended up with the Oakland A’s, where he had his best season in 2009. Between both stops in 2008, with much better results in Oakland, Davis hit .243 with 30 runs, 29 steals and a .618 OPS in 113 games. In 2009, he hit .305 with 65 runs scored, 27 doubles, 48 RBIs, 41 steals and a .784 OPS in 125 games. He hit .284 in 143 games in 2010, with 66 runs scored, 28 doubles, 52 RBIs and 50 steals, finishing with a .697 OPS.
In December of 2010, Davis was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. He hit just .238 in 95 games during his first season in Toronto, with 44 runs, 34 steals and a .623 OPS. In 2012, he batted .257 in 142 games, with 64 runs scored, 24 doubles, eight homers, 43 RBIs and 46 steals, improving to a .687 OPS. Davis batted .260 in 108 games during his final season in Toronto in 2013, matching his .687 OPS from the previous season. He had 45 steals in 51 attempts and he scored 49 runs. He became a free agent after the season and signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. In 2014, he hit .282 in 134 games, with 64 runs scored, 27 doubles, eight homers, 51 RBIs and 36 steals. He followed that up with a .258 average, 55 runs, 18 doubles, a career high 11 triples, eight homers, 36 RBIs and 18 steals in 112 games in 2015. He had a .721 OPS during his first season in Detroit, then improved to a .746 mark in 2015. In 2016, he signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Indians. He led the league with 43 stolen bases that season and scored a career high 74 runs. He also hit a career high 12 homers, his only double-digit home run season. He batted .249/.306/.388 in 134 games. Cleveland went to the World Series that year and Davis struggled through the postseason. However, he hit a memorable two-run homer in the eighth inning of game seven of the series that tied the game 6-6 at the time.
Davis signed back with the A’s for 2017, though they traded him mid-season to the Boston Red Sox. He batted .235 in 117 games that year, with 56 runs, 19 doubles, five homers, 20 RBIs, 29 steals and a .641 OPS, putting up better stats in Oakland. He ended up back in Cleveland as a free agent in 2018 and hit .224 with 33 runs, 21 steals and a .559 OPS in 101 games. Davis was active through the end of the 2019 season, finishing up with a .200/.231/.400 slash line in 29 games for the New York Mets, while spending most of the season with Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. He played 1,448 games over 14 seasons in the majors, seeing time with eight clubs, while playing in all six divisions. He put up a .262 career average, with 637 runs, 226 doubles, 43 triples, 62 homers, 387 RBIs and 415 stolen bases. Davis had a rough time in postseason play, putting up a .175 average over 19 games. Due to a low walk rate and average defense most of his career, he had an 11.8 career WAR, with much of that coming during his first stint with the A’s. He had a career best 3.3 WAR in 2009. Davis played 747 games in center field, 502 in left field and 125 in right field during his career.
JA Happ, pitcher for the 2015 Pirates. Happ was a third round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies out of Northwestern University in 2004. He made it to the majors three years later, though he only pitched one game for the 2007 Phillies. He also saw brief time in 2008, but he was still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 and nearly won. Happ debuted in pro ball in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2004, where he had a 2.02 ERA in 11 starts, with 37 strikeouts in 35.2 innings for Batavia. In his first full season of pro ball in 2005, he went 5-4, 2.30, with 78 strikeouts in 78.1 innings, making 12 starts at two relief appearances for Low-A Lakewood of the South Atlantic League, before making a late jump to Double-A Reading of the Eastern League for one start. He allowed one run over six innings for Reading. In 2006, Happ made 13 starts with High-A Clearwater of the Florida State League, another 12 for Reading, and one in Triple-A with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League. He combined to go 10-9, 2.69 in 160.2 innings, with 162 strikeouts. He ended the year in the Arizona Fall League and had a 5.02 ERA in 14.1 innings. In 2007, he struggled in 24 starts with Triple-A Ottawa of the International League, going 4-6, 5.02 in 118.1 innings, with 117 strikeouts. In his big league debut on June 30, 2007, Happ allowed five runs over four innings.
In 2008, Happ had an 8-7, 3.60 record and 151 strikeouts in 135 innings at Triple-A Lehigh Valley of the International League. He made four starts and four relief appearances for the Phillies that year, posting a 3.69 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 with a 12-4, 2.93 record and 119 strikeouts in 166 innings, making 23 starts and 12 relief appearances. Happ led the league with two shutouts that year. He spent time back in the minors on rehab in 2010, and he was traded in July to the Houston Astros as part of the package to acquire veteran starter Roy Oswalt. Happ went 6-4, 3.40 in 87.1 innings over 16 starts that season between both big league stops, which was much better than the 5.97 ERA he had in 37.2 innings in the minors that year. He went 6-15, 5.35 in 28 starts for the Astros in 2011, throwing 156.1 innings, with 134 strikeouts. He was traded mid-season in 2012 to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a ten-player deal. Happ posted a 10-11, 4.79 record in 144.1 innings, with 144 strikeouts that season, with similar results at each stop. He went 5-7, 4.56 in 92.2 innings over 18 starts in 2013, but missed part of the season after being struck by a line drive in the head, which fractured his skull. He made 26 starts and four relief appearances for the 2014 Blue Jays, finishing up the season with an 11-11, 4.22 record and 133 strikeouts in 158 innings.
Happ was traded to the Seattle Mariners in December of 2014, but his stay there wasn’t long. He went 4-6, 4.64 in 108.2 innings in Seattle. After being acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline from the Mariners for Adrian Sampson, he went 7-2, 1.85 in 63.1 innings over 11 starts in Pittsburgh. He became a free agent after the season and signed a three-year deal with the Blue Jays. His best season turned out to be his first season in Toronto. He went 20-4, 3.18, with 163 strikeouts in 195 innings that year, finishing sixth in the Cy Young voting. In 2017, he was 10-11, 3.53 in 145.1 innings, compiling 142 strikeouts. He was an All-Star for the only time in his career in 2018. He went 17-6, 3.65 in 177.2 innings, setting a career high with 193 strikeouts. He was traded mid-season that year to the New York Yankees and had a 7-0, 2.69 record after the deal. He signed a free agent deal with the Yankees in 2019 and had a 12-8 record, though it came with a 4.91 ERA in 161.1 innings. He had 140 strikeouts that season. Happ went 2-2, 3.47 in 49.1 innings over nine starts during the shortened 2020 season. He signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins for 2021, though they traded him mid-season to the St Louis Cardinals. He combined to go 10-8, 5.79 in 152.1 innings over 30 starts. Happ decided to retire after the 2021 season. In 15 years in the majors, he had a 133-100, 4.13 record in 1,893.2 innings, with 1,661 strikeouts. Despite leading the league with two shutouts during his rookie season, he finished with three career shutouts. He pitched 15 times in the postseason, mostly in relief, posting a 5.86 ERA in 27.2 innings.
James McDonald, pitcher for the 2010-13 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 out of high school, though he didn’t sign until May of 2003 under the old draft-and-follow rules. He didn’t make the majors until 2008, which was partially due to the fact that he was limited to six innings total during the 2004-05 seasons. In the Gulf Coast League in 2003, McDonald had a 3.33 ERA in 48.2 innings, with 47 strikeouts. He had some arm issues the next year and instead of sitting out, the Dodgers had him play outfield in the lower levels, where he struggled with a low average and no power. He batted .224 with three extra-base hits in 46 games in the GCL. He pitched six innings total in 2005, while batting .229 with four extra-base hits and a .601 OPS in 29 games with Ogden of the short-season Pioneer League. McDonald returned to the mound full-time in 2006, where he went 5-10, 3.98 in 142.1 innings, with 146 strikeouts in Low-A with Columbus of the South Atlantic League. He split the 2007 season between High-A Inland Empire of the California League and Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League, with much better results at the higher level. He had a 3.95 ERA in 82 innings in High-A, and a 1.71 mark in 52.2 innings in Double-A, finishing the year with 168 strikeouts in 134.2 innings. Despite the success, most of 2008 was spent back in Jacksonville, where he went 5-3, 3.19 in 118.2 innings over 22 starts, with 113 strikeouts. He saw brief time in Triple-A with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League, posting a 3.63 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 22.1 innings, then finished the year with six shutout innings in relief for the Dodgers.
McDonald went 5-5, 4.00, with 54 strikeouts in 63 innings with the 2009 Dodgers. He made six starts in Triple-A in the middle of the season, going 1-0, 3.26 with 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings for Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, while his big league time was mostly in relief, with 45 appearances and four starts. He allowed seven runs in 7.2 innings over one start and three relief outings with the 2010 Dodgers, while working as a starter during his time in Albuquerque that season, posting a 4.41 ERA in 63.1 innings over 12 starts. McDonald was acquired by the Pirates from the Dodgers, along with Andrew Lambo, at the 2010 trade deadline for veteran reliever Octavio Dotel. McDonald posted a 4.11 ERA in 76.2 innings over three partial seasons in the majors prior to the deal. After the trade, he stepped into the Pirates rotation, where he went 4-5, 3.52 in 64 innings over 11 starts in 2010. He showed a lot of promise during that first glance, debuting on August 5th with six shutout innings, while also throwing shutout ball over 15 innings total during back-to-back starts in September.
The 2011-12 seasons in Pittsburgh were McDonald’s only full seasons in the majors, and he had matching 4.21 ERAs in 170 innings each season. In 2011, that ERA/IP total led him to a 9-9 record in 31 starts, finishing with 142 strikeouts. In 2012, he finished with a 12-8 record and a career high 151 strikeouts. He made 29 starts and one relief appearance that season. Despite the same ERA/IP each year, he had a 1.49 WHIP in 2011 and a career best 1.26 WHIP in 2012. Just when it appeared that he had a big future in Pittsburgh, things went south in a hurry. McDonald was out of shoulder soreness for half of 2013, and spent a majority of his healthy time doing rehab work over four levels in the minors. He was limited to just 29.2 innings over six starts with the Pirates that season, and he finished with a 5.76 ERA. He didn’t do any better during his minor league time, posting a 6.55 ERA in 33 innings. The Pirates let him go via free agency shortly before the 2013 season ended. In four seasons in Pittsburgh, he had a 27-24, 4.21 record in 435.2 innings. That 4.21 ERA matched his marks from the 2011-12 seasons. He spent the entire 2014 season with the Chicago Cubs, though he never pitched due to a shoulder injury, which ultimately ended his career. He re-injured his shoulder on the second pitch of his fourth appearance. He had a 12.71 ERA, with nine walks and no strikeouts at the time of the injury. He went 32-30, 4.20, with 442 strikeouts in 512.1 innings in the majors over 82 starts and 49 relief appearances. His cousins Donzell and Darnell McDonald were siblings, who both played in the majors.
John Holdzkom, pitcher for the 2014 Pirates. Holdzkom was drafted out of high school in the 15th round in 2005, but decided not to sign with the Seattle Mariners. Instead, he moved up to a fourth round pick in 2006, selected by the New York Mets out of Salt Lake Community College. Injuries sidetracked his career before his break with the Pirates in 2014. In fact, from 2006 through his last appearance in 2018, he threw just 307 innings total in pro ball, which included three years of winter ball stats, and some of that time was spent as a starting pitcher. Holdzkom debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2006, where he had a 7.71 ERA in 23.1 innings, with 20 walks and 23 strikeouts. He was limited to 11 innings 2007, seeing brief time in the GCL and with Kingsport of the short-season Appalachian League. He had a 4.91 ERA and ten strikeouts. He struggled in Low-A with Savannah of the South Atlantic League in 2008, then pitched better while back in Kingsport later in the season. He had a 3.66 ERA and a 12:44 BB/SO ratio in 39.1 inningswith Kingsport, and he had a 5.89 ERA in 47.1 innings over five starts and 15 relief appearances that year with Savannah. He combined to record 100 strikeouts that season. Holdzkom had Tommy John surgery after the 2008 season and it cost him the entire 2009 season.
Holdzkom returned to action in short-season ball in 2010, but he had considerable troubles throwing strikes and ended up making just six appearances, which were split between the GCL and Kingsport. He finished with ten strikeouts and ten walks in a total of five innings. He was released the following spring and didn’t play during the 2011 season. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, where he saw limited time in High-A with Bakersfield of the California League, finishing with 13 walks in 8.2 innings. Holdzkom played winter ball in Australia that off-season and made ten starts, going 4-3, 4.10 in 48.1 innings, with 43 walks and 48 strikeouts. He went 3-4, 2.89 in 43.2 innings in independent ball in 2013. He issued 36 walks and had 52 strikeouts that year, splitting time between Sioux City and Amarillo of the American Association. From there it was back to Australia, where the walks were out of control, and he lasted just 6.2 in which he allowed ten runs, with 11 walks and nine strikeouts. Holdzkom turned a corner in 2014, as he learned to control his fastball that reached 100 MPH. He gave up one run and two walks in nine appearances with Amarillo and one game with San Angelo of the United League Baseball.
Holdzkom was signed by the Pirates in the middle of that 2014 season, then he quickly worked his way to the majors for nine late-season innings that year. He threw six shutout innings at Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League, with one walk and ten strikeouts. He then went to Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, where he had a 2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings, with 27 strikeouts. Holdzkom joined the Pirates in September and gave up two runs over his nine innings, while striking out 14 batters. That turned out to be his only big league time, as an injury sidetracked him in 2015. He was sent back to Indianapolis to begin the season, then was injured in June. He returned a month later and made two rehab appearances with Morgantown of the New York-Penn League, before pitching his final game at the end of July with Indianapolis. A shoulder injury caused him to make three trips to the disabled list. He went 2-0, 2.96 with two saves in 24.1 innings over 23 appearances, finishing with 17 walks and 30 strikeouts. Holdzkom was released at the end of Spring Training in 2016, partially due to see him 100 MPH fastball drop down to the 90-91 MPH range. He signed three weeks later with the Chicago White Sox, but he lasted just one minor league game in July before being released. His only other appearances in pro ball since 2016 came in winter ball in Australia during the 2018-19 off-season when he pitched 5.1 innings over five games. His brother Lincoln Holdzkom played pro ball for nine seasons, including 2009 with the Pirates in Double-A.
Jordan Lyles, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Houston Astros out of high school in 2008, taken 38th overall. He made it to the majors in three seasons, debuting in 2011 at 20 years old. He split his first season of pro ball between two short-season clubs. Lyles had a 3.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49.2 innings over 13 starts in the Appalachian League with Greeneville. He gave up five runs in 5.2 innings in the New York-Penn League with Tri-City. In Low-A ball with Lexington of the South Atlantic League in 2009, he went 7-11, 3.24 in 144.2 innings, with 167 strikeouts. He skipped to Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League in 2010, and finished the year with six starts in Triple-A with Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League, combining to go 7-12, 3.57 in 158.2 innings, with 137 strikeouts. Lyles split the 2011 season between Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League and the majors, with slightly more time with the Astros. He had a 2-8, 5.36 record in 94 innings in 15 starts and five relief outings with the Astros that year. He went 3-3, 3.61 in 61.2 innings with Oklahoma City. The 2012 season saw him go 5-0, 3.54 in seven Oklahoma City starts, and he had a 5-12, 5.09 record in 141.1 innings over 25 starts with Houston. His 2013 playing time split between Triple-A and the majors was almost identical to 2012. Lyles struggled at both levels, posting a 5.32 ERA in 23.2 innings with Oklahoma City, and a 7-9, 5.59 record in 141.2 innings with the Astros.
Lyles was traded to the Colorado Rockies in December of 2013. He went 7-4, 4.33 in 126.2 innings over 22 starts in 2014. He suffered a toe injury in early 2015 that limited him to ten starts all season. He went 2-5, 5.14 in 49 innings that year. He then came back with a rough season in 2016, making eight starts in Triple-A, while moving to a relief role in the majors. He had a 4-2, 5.44 record in 44.2 innings with Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League that season. He went 4-5, 5.83 in 58.2 innings over five starts and 35 relief appearances with the Rockies that year. He pitched in relief for the Rockies in 2017 before being released in August. He then signed with the San Diego Padres to finish the season in a starting role. Neither stint went well, with a 6.94 ERA in 46.2 innings with Colorado, and a 9.39 ERA in 23 innings with San Diego. He played a swing role with the Padres in 2018 (eight starts and 16 relief appearances) before being lost on waivers in August to the Milwaukee Brewers, who used him in relief for 11 appearances. Lyles had a 4.11 ERA in 87.2 innings in 2018, posting slightly better results with Milwaukee.
The Pirates signed Lyles as a free agent in December of 2018. In his ninth big league season, he had a 5-7, 5.36 record in 82.1 innings over 17 starts for the Pirates, before being traded to the Brewers on July 29th. Lyles made 11 starts for the Brewers after the trade, going 7-1, 2.45 in 58.2 innings. He finished with 146 strikeouts, which is his career high. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers for 2020 and went 1-6, 7.02 in nine starts and three relief appearances, throwing 57.2 innings. In 2021, he had a 10-13, 5.15 record in 180 innings, while leading the league in earned runs allowed and home runs allowed. He tied his career high with 146 strikeouts. He signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles for 2022, and put up a 12-11, 4.42 record in 32 starts, with 144 strikeouts in 179 innings. Lyles has a 66-90, 5.10 in 214 starts and 107 relief appearances, throwing a total of 1,326.1 innings.