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The Cubs, starting pitcher debuts, and Wrigley Field: A brief history

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Jen-Ho Tseng’s first big-league start Thursday night will make him a member of an interesting collection of pitchers.

The most recent Cub to make his MLB debut as a starter at Wrigley Field, before tonight. Can you name him? (Answer in the article)
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The last Cub to make his major-league debut as a starting pitcher was Kyle Hendricks, who debuted July 10, 2014 in Cincinnati with six decent innings (four runs allowed).

That raised the question (for me, anyway): Who was the last Cubs pitcher to make his major-league debut at Wrigley Field as a starter?

That winds up being the answer to a trivia question, as that pitcher, who debuted to at least a bit of hoopla, is no longer in baseball, released by the Cubs at the end of spring training this year and not picked up by anyone else. It’s Dallas Beeler, who was called up to start one of the games of a split doubleheader against the Nationals June 28, 2014. Beeler threw six pretty good innings that day, but that was his career highlight. The other four starts he made as a major leaguer weren’t good.

Here are the 24 men who made their big-league debuts as starting pitchers for the Cubs, at Wrigley Field, in the divisional-play era (since 1969):

Rk Gcar Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO
1 1 Dallas Beeler 2014-06-28 (1) CHC WSN L 0-3 GS-6, L 6.0 4 1 0 3 6
2 1 Thomas Diamond 2010-08-03 CHC MIL L 3-4 GS-6, L 6.0 7 3 3 3 10
3 1 Juan Mateo 2006-08-03 (2) CHC ARI W 7-3 GS-5, W 5.0 6 3 2 3 2
4 1 Angel Guzman 2006-04-26 CHC FLA L 5-7 GS-5 5.0 6 3 3 4 5
5 1 Sean Marshall 2006-04-09 CHC STL W 8-4 GS-5 4.1 4 4 4 1 2
6 1 Mark Prior 2002-05-22 CHC PIT W 7-4 GS-6, W 6.0 4 2 2 2 10
7 1 Juan Cruz 2001-08-21 CHC MIL L 1-3 GS-6, L 6.0 3 2 2 1 8
8 1 Carlos Zambrano 2001-08-20 (2) CHC MIL L 2-10 GS-5, L 4.0 4 7 7 4 3
9 1 Joey Nation 2000-09-23 CHC STL L 5-6 GS-6, L 5.1 6 5 5 6 6
10 1 Brian McNichol 1999-09-07 (2) CHC CIN L 3-10 GS-5, L 4.0 8 6 6 3 4
11 1 Amaury Telemaco 1996-05-16 CHC HOU W 13-1 GS-7, W 7.0 1 0 0 4 6
12 1 Steve Trachsel 1993-09-19 CHC FLA L 1-2 GS-7, L 7.0 4 2 2 1 5
13 1 Turk Wendell 1993-06-17 CHC STL L 10-11 GS-4, L 3.2 8 5 5 2 2
14 1 Lance Dickson 1990-08-09 CHC STL L 1-3 GS-6, L 6.0 8 3 3 1 3
15 1 Joe Kraemer 1989-08-22 CHC CIN L 2-7 GS-4, L 3.2 7 6 2 2 5
16 1 Mike Harkey 1988-09-05 (2) CHC PHI L 3-4 GS-7 6.1 7 3 3 1 4
17 1 Jeff Pico 1988-05-31 CHC CIN W 4-0 SHO, W 9.0 4 0 0 0 6
18 1 Jamie Moyer 1986-06-16 CHC PHI W 7-5 GS-7, W 6.1 8 5 4 3 2
19 1 Steve Engel 1985-07-30 CHC STL L 3-11 GS-4, L 3.0 6 6 6 5 1
20 1 Randy Martz 1980-09-06 (2) CHC CIN L 1-6 GS-6, L 6.0 5 3 3 5 2
21 1 Dennis Lamp 1977-08-21 CHC LAD L 1-5 GS-6, L 5.2 9 5 5 2 2
22 1 Burt Hooton 1971-06-17 CHC STL W 7-6 GS-4 3.1 3 3 3 5 2
23 1 Joe Decker 1969-09-18 CHC PHI L 3-5 GS-6 6.0 4 2 2 4 6
24 1 Jim Colborn 1969-07-13 (2) CHC PHI W 6-4 GS-6, W 5.1 7 3 3 4 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/14/2017.

Well now. That’s quite the interesting list. There are several well-known pitchers in this list, including Carlos Zambrano, Jamie Moyer, Mark Prior and Mike Harkey, the latter two Cubs No. 1 draft picks.

Another Cubs No. 1 pick, Burt Hooton, was in the big leagues starting for the Cubs just nine days after he was chosen in the first round of the secondary phase of the draft that year. He threw just 3⅓ innings that day, likely a bit nervous, and walked five in a game that the Cubs won in 11 innings and was more notable for Don Kessinger’s six-hit afternoon.

Another notable debut, by far the best among the 24, was made by Jeff Pico on May 31, 1988. He threw a four-hit shutout against a pretty good Reds team. I was at that game and most of us who were there thought that Pico looked like he’d be around to stay for a long time. Unfortunately, that was by far the best game of a big-league career that lasted only three seasons. Later, Pico spent three years as Reds pitching coach (2013-15) and is currently the pitching coach at Triple-A Toledo in the Tigers organization.

Perhaps the saddest of all these debuts is the one by Lance Dickson on August 9, 1990. Dickson was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick that year out of Arizona and posted 11 dominant starts in the system (0.94 ERA, 0.760 WHIP, 111 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 76⅓ innings. Cubs management, desperate for pitching help in a down year, brought him to the big leagues. His debut was decent, and so was his second start, but in his third start he hurt his elbow in the third inning and left the game, never to return to the majors. Even in 1991 and 1992, despite the injury, he was a top-100 prospect, but in five more years in the Cubs system never got back to where he was and was out of baseball at age 26.

We certainly hope for much better than that from Jen-Ho Tseng. He will be the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Cubs since Sean Gallagher (remember him?) in 2008. Best of luck to him tonight in his first big-league start.