10 UCLA Alums to Suit Up As Players, Managers on Opening Day
LOS ANGELES – After months of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Major League Baseball season officially gets underway on Thursday and seven Bruin alumni were named to Opening Day rosters by their respective clubs.
Trevor Bauer (Cincinnati Reds), Griffin Canning (Los Angeles Angels), Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees), Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants), Tyler Heineman (San Francisco Giants), Adam Plutko (Cleveland Indians), and Pat Valaika (Baltimore Orioles) all made the initial 30-man roster for their teams.
Cole, Crawford, and Heineman are projected to be in the starting lineup on Thursday, with Cole facing off against fellow ace Max Scherzer in his Yankees debut.
Two additional Bruins (Matt Grace – Arizona, James Kaprielian – Oakland) were named to their team's 60-man player pool, meaning they are eligible to play in the MLB this season. Kevin Kramer (Pittsburgh) is set to miss the season due to injury.
In addition, UCLA has three former players serving as managers of big league clubs this season in Dave Roberts (Los Angeles Dodgers), Torey Lovullo (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Ron Roenicke (Boston Red Sox). No other university has more than one alumnus managing at the MLB level. Roberts was recently announced as a member of the star-studded 2020 UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame class.
Bauer (2009-11 at UCLA) is in his first full season with Cincinnati after making a cross-state move from Cleveland at the 2019 trade deadline. The 2011 Golden Spikes Award winner is in his ninth big league season, putting together a 70-60 record with a 4.04 ERA over his career with the Indians, Reds, and Diamondbacks. He is just one season removed from leading the American League in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) at 2.44 while making the AL All-Star Team and finishing sixth in Cy Young voting.
Canning (2015-17) is on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career after a solid debut season with the Angels in 2019. The Orange County native made 17 starts for the Halos last year, recording a 4.58 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning (96 Ks in 90 1/3 innings). The righty allowed just three hits over six scoreless innings in an exhibition against San Diego on Monday and is expected to be a mainstay in the Angels rotation this year.
Cole (2009-11) is in his first season with the Yankees after signing a monster contract during the offseason, a nine-year, $324 million pact that stands as the largest in MLB history for a pitcher. The Santa Ana, Calif. native had a dominant season in 2019 with Houston, posting a 20-5 record while leading the American League in both ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326). Cole missed bats at a historic rate, as his 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings set a new single-season MLB record, besting Randy Johnson's 2001 campaign (13.4). In seven career MLB seasons with Houston and Pittsburgh, Cole is 94-52 with a 3.22 ERA and 1,336 strikeouts over 1,195 innings.
Crawford (2006-08) is set to make his ninth consecutive Opening Day start, the most by a Giants shortstop since 1958. He had a down year with the bat by his standards in 2019 (.228/.304/.350) but has two All-Star trips and three Gold Gloves to his name over the last five seasons. He'll anchor a Giants infield that is devoid of veterans Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Evan Longoria on Opening Day.
Heineman (2010-12) will join Crawford at Dodger Stadium for his first career Opening Day after making his big league debut last September with the Miami Marlins. The backstop had three hits – including his first career MLB home run – over 11 at-bats last season. The Pacific Palisades native accrued a .285 career batting average over eight minor league seasons.
Plutko (2011-13) enters his fourth season in the big leagues – all with the Indians – where he is expected to battle for a spot in the Cleveland rotation. Plutko was 7-5 last year over a career-high 20 starts, pitching to a 4.86 ERA. He has a 5.08 career ERA over 189 2/3 innings.
Valaika (2011-13) will make his Orioles debut in 2020 after a four year stint with Colorado. The utility man slashed .333/.379/.704 for the O's during Spring Training and is expected to play a wide variety of positions this year. Valaika's best season in the Majors came in 2017 when he batted .258 with 13 home runs and a .533 slugging percentage over 110 games. He has played every infield position as well as left field during his MLB career.
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