Updated: Jul 24, 2021
In Major League Baseball history, 19,902 players have appeared in a game. Some become instant fixtures on teams' rosters, others last a few games and others get a multitude of appearances over a few seasons. However, of those 19,902, there is a glut of players that only suited up for one game. Through injuries, waiver claims and trades, there are a lot of reasons a player can only get into one game. For the first edition of 'One-Game Careers', I am going to take a look at the single MLB game pitched by Jay Sborz.
Jay Sborz was drafted in 2003 out of Langley High School in McLean, Virginia by the Detroit Tigers and instantly thrust into their minor league system, appearing in the Gulf Coast League. After two mediocre seasons at that level, he made the jump to Class-A West Michigan. After a few good seasons bouncing around West Michigan and Oneonta, he got to Lakeland in the Florida State League in 2008.
Sborz pitched to a 2.87 ERA in 2008 and 2009 would be even better for him. He shot up the Tigers' system, pitching well at every stop. Between Lakeland, AA Erie and AAA Toledo, he pitched to a 2.27 ERA and earned his way onto the Tigers' radar.
He started 2010 with the Toledo Mud Hens in AAA, not pitching particularly well. When Rick Porcello was sent down on June 21, however, it was Sborz who earned his first call-up to the majors. Nobody could have foreseen what would happen the next day.
JUNE 22, 2010: CHAOS IN QUEENS
It was June 22, 2010. The Detroit Tigers were headed to Flushing to take on the New York Mets following an off day after beating the Diamondbacks 3-1 at Comerica Park, yet another interleague matchup. The Mets were also coming off an off day after getting four-hit by C.C. Sabathia and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. This would be the first time the Tigers would come to Queens since 2004, and there was a marquee pitching matchup for the fans at 7 p.m. that night, with Tigers ace Justin Verlander taking on solid lefty Jonathon Niese in what should have been a great game. What followed was a slog.
After Niese weaved around a two-out walk in the top of the first, Verlander was not his usual dominant self in the bottom half. An infield single by Jose Reyes set the table for Angel Pagan, who drilled a triple to center field to score Reyes. A sacrifice fly by David Wright made it 2-0, and after a strikeout and a pair of walks, Verlander got Jeff Francoeur to ground out to end the inning, a rough first inning by Verlander, but it gave him time to settle in.
Niese had another solid inning, and Verlander appeared to have settled in as well, allowing a single to Ruben Tejada but nothing else in that inning. Niese recorded another great inning, and it looked like it would be the solid game everyone thought would happen... that is, until disaster struck in the bottom of the third.
After a walk to Wright and a single by Ike Davis, Verlander allowed an RBI double to Jason Bay as the heavens opened up. The game was halted after that and a 58-minute rain delay followed.
After the rain ceased, Justin Verlander did not return to the mound. Instead, manager Jim Leyland summoned our guy Jay Sborz out of the bullpen to potentially soak up some innings. It could not have gone any more awry for the Tigers.
Sborz toed the rubber and faced off against Rod Barajas. He got the count to 1-2 before plunking Barajas on the shoulder with a pitch. No big deal, he must just have jitters for it being his first game or something.
The very next pitch, Sborz hit Francoeur on the hand with a pitch, forcing in a run and stretching the Mets lead to four. He became the first pitcher to hit the first two batters he faced in his MLB debut since 2002.
Leyland came out to converse with Sborz and try to settle him down. Things would not fare much better for the rookie, as Ruben Tejada hit a hot shot to third base which could have cleared the bases had Brandon Inge not made a ridiculous diving play. However, despite recording an out, Inge threw high to home plate allowing another run to score making it 5-0.
With an out under his belt, Sborz faced Niese and only got him strike out because he bunted foul with two strikes and a full count. He was poised to get out of the inning until Reyes rocketed a single up the middle to score another run.
Angel Pagan hit a two-run single after Reyes stole second and the score was 8-0. All Sborz needed to do was get another out... and proceeded to allow another single to David Wright as the Mets batted around in that inning. Leyland had seen enough, and pulled Sborz in favor of Brad Thomas.
Sborz would be optioned to Toledo two days later and never play another MLB game. He spent the rest of the season at Toledo and his career wrapped up after 2010 with the Atlanta Braves releasing him the following year.
Sborz's final line: 7 BF, 3 H, 2 HBP, 5 ER, 1 K, 0.2 IP, 67.50 ERA.
The rest of the game would be just as ugly. Thomas allowed a two-run single to Davis and a pair of walks before finally getting out of the inning.
The Tigers would attempt to mount a comeback as Brennan Boesch socked a two-run homer in the fourth and a four-run top of the fifth against Niese and Fernando Nieve made the score 11-6. The Mets would erase that deficit by tacking on three runs in the sixth against reliever Fu-Te Ni and Ryota Igarashi pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth to close out the first game of three in the series. In one of the prototypical 'rain getaway' games, the final score was a crooked 14-6 in favor of the Mets.
After the game, Jim Leyland expressed sympathy for his 25-year old relief pitcher.
"A kid makes his debut like that, you don't like to see that," Leyland said. "You don't like to see that but it happens. I'm not too concerned about it."
Overall, both teams had mediocre 2010 seasons with the Tigers finishing 81-81 and the Mets going 79-83. In one of the most forgettable games of all time, Jay Sborz pitched in the only game of his career, and it just happened to be the worst game of his career. He is lucky that his brother Josh is carrying on the Sborz legacy in the Dodgers' organization nowadays.
A player can get into a game in a multitude of ways. For Sborz, it was as a rain-delay pitching replacement. Unfortunately, he struggled, and that would be his one-game career.