In 2021, only one player made the Houston Astros‘ Opening Day roster who had not made his major-league debut. That player was Chas McCormick, a member of the American League Wild Card and Division Series roster, the year before.
McCormick wasn’t the new guy for too long, as the Astros had close to six major-league debuts by half way through the season. The script is different in 2022. In a span of 48 hours, three prospects saw their major-league debuts, while one of them was a stroke of luck.
Prior to Friday’s contest in Los Angeles, the Astros recalled infielder Joe Perez from Double-A Corpus Christi. While added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection in November, Perez might have seen his debut later down the line, if Yuli Gurriel had not been moved to the paternity list.
Perez was the only healthy position player on the 40-man roster to be called up, as Taylor Jones remains on the shelf. Sporting 31, the 22-year-old couldn’t sound more humble in locker room interviews, before what would be his debut.
"“I’m willing to bet he will use whatever is given to him until he earns the right to choose a number,” agent Roger Thomas told Climbing Tal’s Hill. “And I know he’s perfectly happy with that. Any number in the big leagues is a great number.”"
Perez entered the game late Friday, striking out in his only at-bat. While playing half of last season in Double-A and skipping Triple-A, Perez’s stay won’t be long, but he showed out with his fielding, throwing a laser across the diamond on one hop to Aledmys Diaz.
Astros rookies were on full display Friday, while Jeremy Peña crushed his first-career home run with his parents being interviewed on TV.
While in the bottom third of the lineup, Peña still had five trips to the plate, leaving with his first-career hit — a single — , a double and his first-career home run, a triple short of the cycle. The 24-year-old flashed the leather too, making fluid throws to first.
In his first major-league game, Peña saw three-straight sliders from Shohei Ohtani in his first trip to the plate — all swinging strikes. His second time up, the righty took a fastball for a strike, then struck out swinging on two sliders.
Righty Austin Warren entered the game, and Peña grounded out on the first slider he saw. In his final at-bat of the night against righty Ryan Tepera, Peña lined out to center, seeing four sliders and four fastballs.
Peña faced the left-handed Reid Detmers on Friday, whose spin on his slider wouldn’t have the same effect that a right-hander would. In his first at-bat, Peña slapped a single, seeing two of the six pitches as sliders.
In his next four at-bats, Peña saw five sliders in seven pitches, launching one 423 feet and roping a double at 106.8 mph. The rookie caught on to the pitch that sat him down the night before.
Off the mound, right-hander Ronel Blanco saw his first major-league work in low-leverage, following a rough appearance from Pedro Báez. Blanco, who was added to the 40-man Thursday, worked 1.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout.
The Astros return to play 8:07 p.m. Saturday with Justin Verlander on the bump.