One debut, two days: Yennier Cano makes history

MINNEAPOLIS — One day, when Yennier Cano looks back on his Major League debut, it’s safe to say that his recollections of that monumental day in any player’s baseball career will be very, very different from those of nearly everyone else in MLB history.

On Wednesday evening, the 28-year-old Cuban right-hander took the mound for the fourth inning after having his contract selected for the first time earlier in the day. But just before he could throw his first career pitch, lightning flashed in the sky above Target Field and a rain delay was called — and the game was later suspended. It resumed on Thursday and resulted in an 11-3 Twins loss.

Here’s the strange twist: Because Cano had been announced as the new pitcher and entered into the system, Wednesday will go down in the record books as his MLB debut despite the fact that he never even threw a pitch, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In fact, Cano had jogged to the Target Field mound from the bullpens for the first time, thrown all of his warmup pitches from the stadium mound, stared in for the sign, taken a deep breath and had stepped on the rubber, ready to throw to Martín Maldonado to begin his MLB career, when the rain delay was called.

So Cano’s “debut” will always be remembered for how he never actually threw a pitch.

For one night, Cano joined the only other pitcher in Major League history to appear in the record books without having faced a batter: Larry Yount (brother of Hall of Famer Robin). Yount took the mound on Sept. 15, 1971, for the Houston Astros but injured himself during his warmup pitches. He never appeared in a big league game again.

Fortunately for Cano, he didn’t join Yount in that club for good, as he started Thursday’s resumed game on the mound as part of the doubleheader to finish the three-game series.

“We were really looking forward to watching his first outing,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, who returned to the club after missing time due to COVID. “It’s not easy to get hot and then go home and come back, knowing that you’re probably pitching the next day, too. He has excellent stuff, and he’s got the type of delivery that kind of instills maybe a little fear in the opposition.”

This means that Cano is a permanent part of a slightly larger club as one of four pitchers to make a big league debut without facing a hitter, joining Yount, Skip Guinn of the 1968 Braves and Dolan Nichols of the ‘58 Cubs. Cano, Guinn and Nichols all went on to make other MLB appearances.

Given his second chance at big league life, Cano retired the first six batters he faced before running into trouble in the sixth, when Kyle Tucker hit a leadoff homer and Jose Siri and Maldonado followed with consecutive one-out singles before Cano was lifted from the game after 2 1/3 frames. He was charged with three runs when Siri and Maldonado scored as part of a six-run rally by Houston.

But as of Wednesday night, while Cano’s debut hung in limbo, he was part of a very exclusive oddity in baseball history — and it’ll likely be an experience he won’t soon forget.

“You know, it’ll be one of those things he probably talks about and goes, ‘Yeah, you know, my first appearance, I didn’t throw a pitch,’” said Baldelli. “That’s probably the end of it. It’s not the craziest thing we’ve ever seen, but it’s a little odd. You wish he could have taken the mound and gone out there last night.”

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