Here’s a story to read while you are enjoying a cup of coffee on a Monday morning about a few Detroit Tigers who did the same. Sort of.
Baseball is fun for so many reasons. One of them that Detroit Tigers and any baseball fan can appreciate is the limitless phrases that use food in baseball wordplay. From “can of corn” to a “snowcone catch”, it has been a part of the baseball lexicon for years.
A term that has always stood out is when a player has had a “cup of coffee”. According to Baseball-Reference, a “cup of coffee” is a player who has played just one game in the majors. We all have witnessed it at some point or another. As life happens, you forget the player you saw make a spot start or appeared at one at-bat before either getting sent back down or disappearing into the ether.
Thanks to the age of social media, a player who fits that terminology will be either tweeted or posted about in some shape way or form. Then, a discussion may happen if the said player should appear again.
There has been a handful that Detroit Tigers fans have witnessed in the last 15 years that you may or may not remember. So let’s start with a pitcher that the Tigers started at the height of the New York Yankees’ power.
RHP Beiker Graterol-Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: April 9th, 1999
The Venezuelan born Beiker Graterol’s only start was a tough assignment. I remember this one in particular because it was on television and I was not familiar with the call up. He was facing the defending champs in the Yankees, who were in the middle of their three straight titles run.
The Tigers brought up Graterol because they had little of a choice. Both Seth Greisinger and Bryce Florie were down because of injuries and the rotation was just Willie Blair, Justin Thompson and Brian Moehler. Graterol made some history as he was the first rookie starter since Red Sox left-hander Billy Rohr to make his debut at Yankee Stadium on April 14th, 1968. Rohr came within one out of a no-hitter. Graterol was not so lucky. His final line: 4IP, 4H, 7R, 7ER, 2SO. He also had to face ace Yankees starter David Cone.
He allowed three home runs to Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius and Chili Davis in the first three innings of work. He was scheduled to make a second start before former GM Randy Smith called up 1998 1st round draft pick Jeff Weaver after one start from Double-A Jacksonville. For that roster move, the Tigers would send down outfielder Gabe Kapler, but as far as Graterol was concerned, he would never make another start. He would pitch for los Tigres in the Mexican League in 2000 before calling it a career.
RHP Kris Keller-Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox: May 24th, 2002
Bonus points if you can remember that Keller, drafted out of high school in the fourth round of the 1996 draft, lead Double-A Jacksonville with 26 saves in 2000. (Total sidebar note. Mike Maroth, Adam Pettyjohn, Nate Cornejo, Kevin Tolar, and Sean Runyan all pitched in Detroit from the Suns roster)
Keller stepped in for Matt Anderson, who took a trip on the DL. In his only appearance, he allowed three runs on two hits, one being a home run to future Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez in the 8th inning.
Keller would be traded later that summer to the Atlanta Braves, for an outfielder Tigers fans would become familiar with; bench coach George Lombard. The trade actually happened during an Inter-league series down in Atlanta, so it was a classic case of switching clubhouses.
RHP Jay Sborz-Detroit Tigers at New York Mets: June 22nd, 2010
The Tigers drafted Sborz in the second round in the 2003 draft out of high school and was on the 40-man roster, closing out games for the Mud Hens when he got the call up. The pitcher who was sent down to Toledo for Sborz? Future Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello.
After a rain delay, the Tigers decided not to bring back Justin Verlander and went with Sborz. He became the first pitcher in eight years at the time to hit the first two batters he faced in their major league debut.
Part two of this “cup of coffee” series will continue tomorrow with a few more pitchers and a look at a few hitters that also enjoyed a cup of coffee.