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Power Ranking The Worst American League Opening Day Starting Pitchers This Century

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When I think Opening Day starter, I tend to think of elite aces that spent a majority of their career with one team. Kershaw with the Dodgers, Clemens on the Red Sox or hearing stories about Seaver with the Mets. Guys who you could put in ink even before the off-season that they would be starting the first game the next year. But almost every team has at least one year where either they don't have a true ace or because of injuries, they have someone making that start that you might not expect.

Here are the worst pitchers to make an Opening Day start for each American League team. I'm not talking the worst outing but the worst careers. Ideally, it's a name where you have to double check before believing this player actually was the first guy the team turned to for that season.

15. New York Yankees: Carl Pavano, 2007

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The man nicknamed "American Idle" was who the Yankees had make the start when Chien-Ming Wang hurt his hamstring late in Spring Training. Pavano, outside of his time in the Bronx, was not a bad pitcher. He won 108 games in his career. He has to be the guy here thanks to his awful tenure with the Yankees and that they've been such a successful franchise that there aren't any horrible pitchers getting this nod.

14. Seattle Mariners: Erik Bedard, 2008

Because Felix Hernandez started Opening Day 11 times for the Mariners, there weren't many options here. Erik Bedard might not be the most ideal Opening Day starter but he's not a bad one at all. Especially when he was traded to the Mariners after the 2007 season. Bedard was one of the better pitchers in the American League that year. Of course, that same trade sent Adam Jones and Chris Tillman to the Orioles and helped set Baltimore up for years. Bedard pitched well for Seattle…but was rarely healthy. He only made 46 starts over four seasons for them.

13. Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzuka, 2008

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I hate putting Dice-K on this list. His career is better than people remember. His first two years in Boston, he was a very good pitcher. He was 4th in Cy Young voting in 2008. I can't defend the years after that and the Red Sox paid way too much for him. However, this isn't a Hideki Irabu or Ken Igawa situation. Dice-K was a major contributor on the 2007 World Series champions. Unfortunately, with the great arms the Red Sox have had this century, he's the worst Opening Day starter.

12. Chicago White Sox: Mike Sirotka, 2000

The 2000 season would be the last one for Sirotka who had one of the best last seasons by a starting pitcher you'll see. He was traded after the season in a deal to Toronto for David Wells but by the time he got to Toronto, he had shoulder issues that ended his career. The Blue Jays tried to get MLB and Bud Selig to reverse the trade but they said no. Wells wound up having an injury-plagued season himself and only made 19 starts for the White Sox before leaving as a free agent at the end of the year.

11. Houston Astros: Bud Norris, 2013

For a team with some of the worst records of any team this century, Norris is a pretty good pitcher for this list. He made 188 starts, won 67 games and even started a couple playoff games. At the end of his career he even worked as a closer and picked up 47 saves. Those 2009-13 Astro teams were so shitty but at least having a guy like Norris pitching regularly kept them competitive at times.

10. Cleveland Guardians: Fausto Carmona (later known as Roberto Hernandez), 2011

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When Carmona made this start, he thought to be a 27 year old rising pitching star. In actuality, his name was Roberto Hernandez and he was actually 30. In 2012, it was uncovered that he had lied about his identity and age. He also had his best pitching days behind him. He did kick around various teams for a few years after that but finishing his career 71-99 with a 4.60 ERA could not have been what Cleveland fans thought would happen in 2011 when they thought they were watching a younger guy.

9. Baltimore Orioles: Tommy Milone, 2020

Milone wasn't a terrible pitcher in his career by any stretch. He had a couple decent seasons with Oakland to being his career and even started a playoff game. This is more a case of the Orioles having surprisingly good starting pitchers each Opening Day and not having any memory of Milone pitching for the O's. In fact, he only made six starts for the Orioles before being traded to the Braves. 

8. Minnesota Twins: Vance Worley, 2013

We just saw Worley pitch for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. He hadn't pitched in the majors since 2017 and held his own against a stacked USA lineup. His MLB career was odd. He'd never really be consistent and his worst year was the 2013 season he was with the Twins. His greatest claim to fame might be as the fifth starter on the 2011 Phillies with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

7. Detroit Tigers: Mike Maroth, 2003

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Someone had to do it. Maroth is the MLB embodiment of "wrong place, wrong time". The best years of his career were on the historically awful Tiger teams of 2002-05. I give Maroth credit for taking the ball every fifth day. Because of that, he's the last pitcher to lose 20 games. He deserved a lot better. Had he come up to the majors with a better team, he wouldn't be known for this stat no one would want. With the right team, he could have even started a playoff game.

6. Los Angeles Angels: Scott Schoeneweis, 2001

Not only should Schoeneweis not have started Opening Day, he shouldn't have started at all. He was a pretty miserable starter in his career going 29-36 with a 5.33 ERA. It wasn't until he was sent to the bullpen did the ERA level out to 4.56 in relief. It's also where had his greatest moments as the Angels sent him there during the 2002 season and he pitched two scoreless outings in the World Series that year.

5. Toronto Blue Jays: Drew Hutchison, 2015

Hutchison was the youngest Opening Day starter for Toronto. He really hasn't been the same since this start. His 2014 rookie season was decent as he went 11-13 as a rookie with a 4.48 ERA and had one of the better strikeout ratios in the AL. The 2015 season had a better win-loss record (13-5) but his ERA jumped over a run and his strikeout numbers dropped. He wasn't a regular starter in the majors again until last year with the Tigers.

4. Oakland A's: Kendall Graveman, 2017-18

Graveman is the only guy on this list to make multiple Opening Day starts. He's also not long for this list. Whoever the A's drag out this year will have the worst career of any other A's Opening Day starting pitcher. This 2023 A's team isn't just horrible, they have a very good chance of losing over 120 games.

3. Kansas City Royals: Runelvys Hernandez, 2003

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For a franchise that won two AL Pennants this century, the Royals have sure had some shitty years as well. He was considered to be the next young ace for the Royals and his 2003 season looked to be the beginning of something very special. He won a coin toss to start Opening Day between him and Jeremy Affeldt. Then, Hernandez started the season 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in April. 

That was the peak for Hernandez. He wound up needing Tommy John surgery before the year was over and he missed 2004 as well. He wasn't the same pitcher when he came back and in 2008 was suspended for testing positive for amphetamines.

2. Texas Rangers: Tanner Scheppers, 2014

You know it's been a rough century for the Rangers when Ryan Drese was an option for a list like this and wasn't chosen. Instead, I have to go with Scheppers who made FOUR major league starts in his entire career. He was a very good relief pitcher for Texas the year before but after coming down with inflammation in those four starts, he never reached that level again. It's got to be rare for an Opening Day starter to have never won a game as a starter in his career.

1. Tampa Bay Rays: Dewon Brazelton, 2005

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Not only did Brazelton never win 9 games in any season, he never won that many games in his entire career. Brazelton was the 3rd overall pick in 2001. He was picked ahead of Mark Teixeira and David Wright. The then-named Devil Rays were really counting on him being a major part of their rotation for years. He showed very mild promise in 2004 going 6-8 with a 4.77 ERA in 21 starts but couldn't strike people out. The bottom fell out in 2005 when he went 1-8 with a 7.61 ERA.  He'd be out of the majors for good the following year.