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Pirates have long history of memorable debuts

Eyes will again be turned to PNC Park Tuesday as another lauded prospect makes his debut for the Pirates. Gregory Polanco will see his first Major League action and, make no mistake, there will be hype and hope surrounding it. Polanco, who was ranked as the 12th best prospect in baseball by prior to the season, is not the first touted Minor Leaguer to make his debut for the Pirates.

Some Pirates debuts, like Polanco's, have had a good amount of publicity surrounding them. However, that wasn't always the case. So here's a look at some memorable Pirates debuts both past and present:


Roberto Clemente - April 17, 1955
Unsurprisingly, Clemente began his legendary career with a seven-game hitting streak, the first knock came in his first Major League at-bat. At the age of 20, Clemente hit a single at Forbes Field off Dodgers' starter Jake Thies, and went on to pick up 2,999 more hits in his career -- all for the Pirates.

  • Debut-year stats: 124 games, .255 avg., five home runs, 47 RBIs, .666 OPS

Willie Stargell - September 16, 1962
Stargell got his first taste of Major League action off the bench, as he pinch hit for the Pirates in the 10th inning of a win against the Giants 52 seasons ago. Stargell struck out in his initial trip to the plate, but more than made up for it over the next 21 years, hitting 475 home runs for the Bucs.

  • Debut-year stats: 10 games, .290 avg., four RBIs, .805 OPS.

Barry Bonds - May 30, 1986
Facing Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers in front of 25,320 fans at Three Rivers Stadium, Bonds' Major League career got off to a forgettable start. The Pirates' first-round selection of the 1985 draft, Bonds went 0-for-5 in an extra-inning loss and struck out three times. He'd go on to collect his first hit the following day and his first of 762 Major League homers on June 4, 1986.

  • Debut-year stats: 113 games, .223 avg., 16 home runs, 48 RBIs, .746 OPS


Andrew McCutchen - June 4, 2009
Joining a franchise in need of a glimmer of hope, McCutchen provided that in his Major League debut at PNC Park five years ago. Batting in the leadoff spot, McCutchen went 2-for-4 in his first game with an RBI, walk and a steal. The Pirates faltered to a 62-99 record in 2009, alas it was the norm for a while in Pittsburgh. But that has ended in the last few seasons with McCutchen, the 2013 National League MVP, leading the charge.

  • Debut-year stats: 108 games, .286 avg, 12 home runs, 54 RBIs, .836 OPS

Pedro Alvarez - June 16, 2010
Alvarez, the second pick of the 2008 draft debuted two years later at PNC Park. The third baseman went 0-for-2 in his debut with a run, a walk and a strikeout. It took Alvarez until his fourth Major League game to get a hit, and he finished his rookie campaign with 16 home runs and a slash line of .256/.326/.461.

  • Debut-year stats: 95 games, .256 avg., 16 home runs, 64 RBIs, .788 OPS.

Gerrit Cole - June 11, 2013
With a No. 1 pick in any Draft come expectations and pressure, and Gerrit Cole has answered them every step of his professional career since the Pirates drafted him first in 2011. His Major League debut was no exception. Cole struck out the first batter he faced, allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings and got his first big league win in the process against the defending World Series champion Giants. And Cole not only had a solid outing on the mound. He also gave himself his first Major League run support by hitting a two-run single against Tim Lincecum in his first at-bat.

  • Debut-year stats: 19 starts, 10-7, 3.22 ERA, 117.1 IP, 100 strikeouts, 1.168 WHIP.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for

Pittsburgh Pirates, Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco