Rockies Top 6 Debuts: Hard to Beat Jason Jennings

Pirates pitcher Nick Kingham made a strong first impression on Sunday. Kingham, who spent eight years working his way to the big leagues including a comeback from Tommy John surgery in 2015, retired the first 20 Cardinals batters he faced in a 5-0 victory.

It brought up memories of six impact debuts by Rockies prospects over the years.

Jason Jennings has to top the list. He debuted at Shea Stadium on Aug, 23, 2001 in a 10-0 victory against the Mets. The Rockies first-round draft choice in June of 1999, the 19th player selected overall, Jennings became the first player to pitch a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in his debut. He pitched a five-hitter in the 10-0 victory. To cap the night off, he homered leading off the ninth inning off Donne Wall. But then Jennings was a DH at Baylor University on days he didn't pitch.  Jennings was the NL Rookie-of-the-Year in 2002 when he was 16-8. Jennings finished five full seasons with the Rockies, in addition to the seven starts in 2001, and finished his career spending two seasons with the Astros, and one with the Rangers. There was, however, no no-hitter anticipation. Matt Lawton, the first batter Jennings faced, led off the bottom of the first inning with a single.

Derrick Gibson made a splash on Sept. 8, 1998 by going 4-for-4 with a double and three singles in the Rockies 11-10 victory over the Marlins at Coors Field. Gibson was an athletic outfielder, who could do back flips. He, however, was consumed by an NFL career and would leave the Rockies minor-league teams over the years to go to tryout camps of various NFL teams.

Trevor Story made his presence felt in a hurry. In his big-league debut on April 4, 2016 he not only hit home runs in his first two at-bats, but he ruined the Opening Day debut of All-Star right-hander Zack Greinke by hitting home runs in his first two at-bats.

Kyle Freeland, born in Denver 39 days after the Rockies played the first game in franchise history, made his debut in the Rockies home opener in 2017, and created a memory for life. He allowed one run in six innings, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out six to earn a 2-1 victory against the eventual NL champion Dodgers. 

Todd Helton made his debut -- believe it or not -- playing left field at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh on Aug. 2, 1997. The first player to have his number retired by the Rockies had to split time in the final two months that season between the outfield and first base, which was the domain of Andres Galarraga. After flying out to left field in his first at-bat, he singled in the fourth inning, walked in the sixth and hit a home run in the eight.

Mark Brownson awed them in his July 21, 1998 debut, taking the mound in the Astrodome and needing 101 pithes to throw a four-hit shutout in which he walked one batter and struck out seven. Six days later he got a second start, and after seven runs in 4 1/3 innings he was returned to the minor leagues. His Rockies career consisted of nine games -- the final seven coming during the 1999 season -- in which he was 1-2 with a 6.91 ERA. 

Tracy RingolsbyComment