Six Bruin Alums Make 2021 MLB Opening Day Rosters
Six alumni of the UCLA baseball program were named to Opening Day rosters on Thursday as the 2021 Major League Baseball Season officially got underway.
Trevor Bauer (Los Angeles Dodgers), Griffin Canning (Los Angeles Angels), Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees), Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants), Adam Plutko (Baltimore Orioles), and Pat Valaika (Baltimore Orioles) all made the initial rosters for their clubs.
Cole, Crawford, and Valaika are all expected to be in the starting lineup for their squads on Opening Day.
In addition, UCLA has two alums serving as managers of MLB clubs this season in Dave Roberts (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Torey Lovullo (Arizona Diamondbacks). No other college program has more than one alumnus managing at the MLB level. Roberts led the Dodgers to MLB's summit in 2020, posting a league-best 43-17 regular season record before defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series to bring home the Dodgers' first championship in 32 years.
Bauer (2009-11 at UCLA) is in his first season with the Dodgers after signing a record three-year deal this past offseason. He was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2020 after leading the senior circuit with a 1.73 ERA while striking out 100 batters in 73 inning with Cincinnati. He is the first Red (in 140 years of franchise history) and the first Bruin alum to win a Cy Young, and is just the third player ever to win a Cy Young as well as college baseball's Golden Spikes Award.
Canning (2015-17) makes the Angels Opening Day roster for the second consecutive season after breaking into the Los Angeles rotation as a rookie in 2019. Over 11 starts during the truncated 2020 campaign, Canning posted an ERA under 4.00 (3.99) and struck out just under a batter per inning (56 Ks in 56 1/3 innings). He's slated to be a key member of the Angels' rotation once again in 2021.
Cole (2009-11) is in his second season with the Yankees after signing a mega-contract in 2019 that remains the highest in total value for a pitcher in MLB history (nine years, $324 million). His first season in the Bronx was a typically successful season for Cole, as he went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 73 innings. He finished fourth place in AL Cy Young voting, the third consecutive season in which he's finished top-five.
Crawford (2006-08) is slated to make his 10th consecutive Opening Day start for San Francisco, joining an exclusive list of club legends to have done so: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Robby Thompson. Crawford had a resurgent year with the bat in 2020, slashing .256/.326/.465 over 54 games, a career-high in slugging and his best batting average since 2016.
Plutko (2011-13) is in his first season in Baltimore after a Spring Training trade via Cleveland. He is expected to occupy a similar role with the Orioles, as a swingman capable of starting as well as both short and long relief. For his career, Plutko is 13-12 with a 5.05 ERA over 50 games (36 starts).
Valaika (2011-13) enters his second season with Baltimore after a career year in 2020 in his first season with the club. Valaika slashed .277/.315/.475 last year while playing all over the field for the Orioles. His batting average was a career-high, and he had eight home runs in just 141 at-bats. Valaika is expected to compete for the starting second base job this season but should still see plenty of time around the field in a utility role.
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