On flashback Friday, we take a look at former Detroit Tigers right-hander Lino Urdaneta, who had arguably the worst one game appearance in Tigers history.
The Detroit Tigers have used the Rule 5 draft to bring new talent into their system. Sometimes it works out well, as it did with Chris Shelton in 2003. The jury is still out on their last two picks, Daniel Stumpf in 2017 and Victor Reyes last season, although neither look like they will be big pieces of the team’s future.
However, neither will be remembered as the worst Rule 5 pick in Tigers history. That distinction belongs to right-hander Lino Urdaneta, who was taken in 2003, the same year the Tigers plucked Shelton.
Urdaneta was originally signed by the Dodgers as a 17-year-old in 1996 out of Venezuela. He didn’t make it into affiliated ball until 1999, when he put up a 4.84 ERA in 67 innings at High-A Vero Beach. He spent 2000 and 2001 getting torched in the minor leagues, giving up 67 earned runs in just over 100 innings of work.
He finally found some success in 2002, posting a 2.41 ERA in 52.1 innings of work, with a 1.07 WHIP and a 5.9 K/9. That was enough for him to reach AA as a 23-year-old in 2003, where he went 0-8 with a 4.29 ERA and a 5.8 K/9.
For some reason, Detroit decided after that season to snag Urdaneta with the 20th pick in the 2003 Rule 5 draft. They had taken Shelton first overall, and snagged left-hander Mike Bumatay 17th. The team obviously was looking for reinforcements after their disastrous 43-119 season in 2003. While Shelton was a nice boost, Bumatay never pitched in the major leagues and Urdaneta, well, he wasn’t particularly useful.
Urdaneta didn’t make his major league debut until September 9. And boy, was it a doozy.
The Tigers had a double-header on 9/9 against the Royals. They split, winning 8-0 in the second game after losing the opener 26-5. As you can guess, our boy Urdaneta pitched in the first one.
The game was started by veteran right-hander Jason Johnson for Detroit, and a 20-year-old rookie by the name of Zack Greinke for the Royals. Johnson struggled right out the gate, giving up a sac fly, a two-run double and another sac fly to go down 4-0 in the first inning. He gave up two more in the second and two more in the third before he was replaced.
Urdaneta came into the game with one out in the third inning and the bases loaded, facing veteran David DeJesus. Certainly not an ideal situation to make your big league debut. Here is how things went down from there.
David DeJesus walked. Angel Berroa singled and everyone advanced one base. Abraham Nunez singled and scored two. Matt Stairs drove in one with a single of his own. Joe Randa hit the fourth consecutive single, loading up the bases. Calvin Pickering followed that up with a (you guessed it) single of his own, driving in one.
That was it for Urdaneta, who was replaced by Franklyn German. Unbelievably, German gave up two consecutive singles of his own before two flyouts mercilessly ended the inning with the Tigers now down 17-2 going into the bottom of the third.
Urdaneta’s final line was as follows: 0.0 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 1 BB. He faced six big league hitters, giving up five singles and a walk. Urdaneta was apparently sent down to the minor leagues after that (I’m guessing he was offered back to the Dodgers, who understandably declined). He tossed 13 innings for Triple-A Toledo and 2.1 for High-A Lakeland, giving up a combined 17 earned runs with just four strikeouts. Needless to say, 2004 was not a good year for poor Lino.
Urdaneta was granted his release following the season (shocker) and ended up with the Mets. He peddled around in their system and in the Mexican league until he made the major leagues again in 2007, this time throwing one full inning (across two appearances) and giving up one run – a grand slam to Bengie Molina that scored three inherited runners.
Urdenata’s career in affiliated ball was over after that. He pitched in Indy ball, the Mexican league and then the Venezuelan Winter League until his age 33 season in 2014. He fared much better at those levels, but will forever be remembered (or forgotten) for his disastrous single appearance for the Detroit Tigers in 2004.
Reyes and Stumpf may not be the Detroit Tigers wave of the future, but at least they won’t be remembered for being unable to get a single out in their only big league performance of the season.