How times change!
It was only a little over one month ago when the roster of former Independent Baseball players in the major leagues only added up to 15 players on active rosters with an unusually high seven more disabled.
The active group now totals 24 (six more are disabled), with several new faces swelling the count.
Five first-time major leaguers (four are pitchers) have pumped new life into the situation this season.
The most recent player to become a first-time major leaguer is infielder Ildemaro Vargas, who made his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday. Vargas's contract was purchased by Arizona two years ago after playing 30 games for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. He got into his first game Thursday, going 0-for-1.
The native Venezuelan had gotten as high as Double-A in five years in the St. Louis farm system before landing in Bridgeport when he was only 23 and young by Atlantic League standards. He was promoted from Triple-A Reno where the switch hitter was at .307 with six homers, 43 RBI and had scored 64 runs in 73 games.
Pitchers Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Texas), John Brebbia (St. Louis), Nik Turley (Minnesota) and Ariel Hernandez (Cincinnati) made their debuts earlier this season with all but Turley currently in the majors.
Bibens-Dirkx's case may be the most unusual in that the right-hander has been pitching professionally since 2006 with Independent Baseball stops at Victoria, British Columbia, in the long-departed Golden League in '09 and at Lancaster in the Atlantic League last season.
The 32-year-old rookie is 3-0 for his nine appearances (four starts) for the Rangers, with seven-inning performances in wins over Washington and the New York Yankees, allowing only one run each time.
"I'm trying to enjoy every moment," he told The Associated Press. "I got to pitch in Yankee Stadium. It was awesome." He has a 3.68 earned run average for 36.2 innings.
Brebbia pitched for both Sioux Falls and Laredo in the American Association, Hernandez was with the traveling Frontier Greys in the Frontier League and Turley was with Somerset in the Atlantic League.
Right-hander Chris Smith returned to the major leagues with Toronto this week. He has pitched for three Frontier League teams as well as for White Sands in the Pecos League.
One somewhat surprising major league promotion was that of Tanner Scheppers, who started his professional career with St. Paul in the American Association, but has had his major league career threatened by six trips to the disabled list in the last four seasons. Scheppers has a 12-6 career record with three saves, mostly before the injuries got more severe.
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Friday, June 30, 2017
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.