The national pastime is back in session as the 2022 MLB season begins Thursday, and among those in action will be several former Arizona Wildcats.
Six ex-UA players have made Opening Day rosters, including right-handed pitcher Tylor Megill, who on Wednesday was announced would be starting the first game of the season for the New York Mets.
Buck announces Tylor Megill will be our #OpeningDay starter. pic.twitter.com/75f7UmS2Jk— New York Mets (@Mets) April 6, 2022
Here’s a look at all the former UA players that could be in action on Opening Day, as well as some ex-Wildcats who are waiting for a call-up in the minor leagues.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
Year in Majors: 6th
Calhoun appeared in 75 games for Texas in 2021, hitting .250 with 6 home runs 25 RBI. He split time between left field and DH, the same spots he figures to be in this season. A left-handed hitter, the 27-year-old Calhoun is likely to be in a platoon where most of his starts will come against right-handed pitchers.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Boston Red Sox
Year in Majors: 3rd
Dalbec became Boston’s everyday first baseman last year, becoming the first Red Sox rookie to hit 25 home runs since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. His 33 career homers in 156 games is the most in franchise history, passing Ted Williams (32). At 26, Big Bob the Heartthrob still has plenty of room to get better, particularly when it comes to striking out (195 in 545 career plate appearances).
Tylor Megill, SP, New York Mets
Year in Majors: 2nd
Megill began last season pitching for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but by late June he was in the Mets’ starting rotation. Now he’s going to be their Opening Day starter against the Washington Nationals, getting the nod due to injuries to stars Jacob de Grom and Max Scherzer. The 26-year-old Megill went 4-6 with a 4.52 ERA in 2021, striking out 99 in 89.2 innings.
Mark Melancon, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Year in Majors: 14th
Despite leading the National League in saves last season, with 39, the San Diego Padres opted not to re-sign Melancon, instead paying him a $1 million buyout. The D’Backs—his ninth MLB team—swooped in and inked the 37-year-old to a 3-year, $17 million deal to be their closer. With 244 career saves, Melancon is 4th on the active list and 38th in MLB history.
Kevin Newman, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Year in Majors: 5th
Newman played a career-high 148 games last season, but at .226 he had one of the lowest batting averages of any MLB regular. So why did he stay in the lineup, and why does the 28-year-old remain an everyday player for the Pirates? Committing just three errors on nearly 500 chances, thus making him a Gold Glove finalist, is your answer.
Alfonso Rivas, 1B/OF, Chicago Cubs
Year in Majors: 2nd
A late-season callup by the Cubs, who after trading away all their best players were in full rebuild mode, Rivas played in 14 games (10 starts) and hit .333 with one home run. The 25-year-old is behind Frank Schwindel at first and either the sixth or seventh option in the outfield, but as a lefty he’ll get his chances early.
Others who could get called up
* IF Andy Burns, who played in nine games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, begins 2022 with LA’s Triple-A team in Oklahoma City. He went 3 for 4 with two RBI in its opener on Tuesday.
* OF Brandon Dixon, who last played in the majors in 2020 with the Detroit Tigers, is with the Padres’ Triple-A team in El Paso.
* Reliever Kevin Ginkel, who has spent parts of the previous seasons in the D’Backs’ bullpen, is starting this season at Triple-A Reno.
* IF Scott Kingery isn’t part of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Opening Day roster after being on it the previous four seasons. He’s recovering from shoulder surgery and was assigned to the Phillies’ minor league camp late last month.
* OF JJ Matijevic hit the first home run in the history of the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, on Tuesday night. If he keeps that up the 26-year-old could become the next former UA player to make the big leagues.
* OF Jared Oliva, who made his MLB debut last season and got into seven games for the Pirates, was designated for assignment on April 1. He’s with their Triple-A team in Indianapolis, where he went 0 for 4 in the season opener on Tuesday.
* OF Rob Refsnyder, who has played parts of six seasons with five different MLB teams, signed with the Red Sox in December and is with their Triple-A team in Worcester, Mass.
* OF Cal Stevenson is the starting centerfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A team in Durham.