20 years ago, El Duque made his Major League debut for the Yankees
After Livan Hernandez made his Major League debut for the Marlins in 1996 and helped lead them to a World Series the following year, there was a ton of anticipation for his older half-brother Orlando's debut with the Yankees the following year.
El Duque defected from Cuba on Christmas Day 1997 -- just after Livan and Marlins' first World Series run -- and eventually found asylum in Costa Rica while he negotiated with teams to come to the Majors. In March of 1998, he reached a four-year deal with the Yankees.
After a brief stint in the Minors, El Duque took the mound as the Yankees hosted the Rays on June 3, 1998. He didn't disappoint, as he started by striking out the first batter he faced and earned the win after holding the Rays to one run in seven innings. The only run he gave up came on a homer from Fred McGriff.
If it weren't his debut, we'd say El Duque was in vintage form with the way he was mixing speeds and changing arm angles to keep the Rays off balance:
Over the years, Hernandez became known for his ability to throw seemingly hundreds of different pitches at different speeds and to find an extra gear for the postseason. In 106 career postseason innings, he owned a 2.55 ERA with 107 strikeouts. Thanks to that, he has four World Series rings to his name.
Perhaps more importantly, though, El Duque is known for his unique delivery, highlighted by an exaggerated and, frankly, envy-inducing leg kick:
And who doesn't love a pitcher who mixes in the eephus with regularity? Spoiler alert: It didn't always work.
One of the most enduring El Duque moments didn't occur on a strikeout or a really GIF-worthy pitch, but when he tried to field his position. Unable to quickly get the ball out of his glove, he decided to just throw the whole package to first base:
Even as a 39-year-old pitcher in 2005 during the White Sox championship run, Hernandez showed he was more than crafty enough to be effective. If he were any craftier, he would have tricked his own catcher:
El Duque pitched in the postseason in seven of his nine years in the Majors and won the World Series in four of those trips. His career may have been brief, but between the rings and the iconic delivery, it was certainly long enough to make a huge impact.