Mike Boddicker made his major league debut on October 4, 1980. It was very forgettable, as he blew a 3-0 lead in the second game of a doubleheader against the Indians. He walked five batters and gave up six runs (five earned) in seven and one-third innings. He allowed a double and a home run to Ron Hassey, for goodness' sake. At the time, it may have been hard to imagine that he would throw twenty-three innings in October without allowing an earned run in three years' time.
While 1983 was the fourth year that Mike spent time in the major leagues, he did indeed still qualify as a rookie: he had pitched that single game in 1980, followed by two more at the end of 1981 and a seven-game trial late in 1982. Having finally had some sustained exposure to the top hitters in the game, Boddicker announced his intentions to stay in '83, shutting out the White Sox in his first start of the season and ultimately winning 16 games even though he started only 26. He led the league in shutouts (5) and fewest hits per nine innings (7.09) and was runner-up in ERA (2.77). Despite this impressive showing, Mike finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chicago's Ron Kittle (who hit 35 home runs but managed a paltry on-base percentage of .314) and Cleveland's Julio Franco (whose .306 OBP was even worse; voters must have been misled by his 80 RBI and 32 steals).
In the American League Championship Series, Boddicker got the last laugh on Kittle and the ChiSox, striking out 14 batters and allowing just five hits in a 4-0 whitewash in Game Two. The Orioles won the next two games to advance to the World Series, and Mike was named the ALCS MVP. In the Series it was more of the same, as he helped the O's rebound from a Game One loss by going the distance to top the Phillies 4-1. Eddie Murray failed to come up with a clean catch of a Cal Ripken relay throw; his error led to an unearned run that proved to be the only blemish on Boddicker's postseason record that year. Again, the Orioles swept the rest of the Series and became World Champions.
I began with an anecdote about Mike Boddicker's rocky first game as an Oriole. It bears mentioning because the current team has several green young pitchers who will be counted on to contribute this year. Some, like Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen, have had some measure of success in their brief time in the major leagues. Others, like Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz, have had a rougher go of it. But even if they continue to take their lumps on the mound in 2008, there's no telling where they could be in a few years' time.
I'll try to remind myself of this entry in August, when it's entirely likely that the Birds will be lagging behind even Tampa Bay.