Three former Tampa Bay Rays who made their MLB Debut on May 28th
By Kasey Kuhrts
The Tampa Bay Rays have earned a well-deserved off day. But on a Friday? Anyone else feel weird about that?
So we figured, why not another off-day memory article. Today, we are looking at three former Tampa Bay Rays players who made their MLB debuts on this day, May 28th. We also have one birthday to note!
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Former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach made his MLB Debut May 28th, 2005
The first former Ray to make his MLB debut on this day was Kelly Shoppach, with the Boston Red Sox. Shoppach played nine games with Boston in 2005, and never recorded a hit.
In the 2006 offseason Shoppach was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a mega-deal that broke down like this:
Shoppach would spend the next four seasons with Cleveland, finishing his time there with a .244 batting average, 43 home runs, and 141 RBIs.
This prompted the Tampa Bay Rays to make a trade for Shoppach before the 2010 season. At the time the Rays acquired Shoppach for a player to be named later, which turned out to be Mitch Talbot.
The Rays were hoping to get the same production as the Indians did from Shoppach, but that was not the case.
In his two seasons with the Rays, Shoppach never hit above .200 in either season, seeing his Rays career average finish at .185. In his 150 total games with the Tampa Bay Rays, Shoppach only hit 16 home runs, with 39 RBIs.
One interesting note about Shoppach, in his two seasons in Tampa, Shoppach K’d 150 times, over double the number of hits he got with the club.
After the 2011 season the Rays did not resign Shoppach, and he became a free agent. Shoppach ended up playing two more seasons in major league baseball and played between four teams.
Former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Nathan Haynes made his MLB Debut May 28th, 2007
Nathan Haynes has a very interesting story in baseball. Although his time with the Rays was short, he has a story worth telling.
Haynes was selected in the first round of the 1997 MLB Draft. Yes, 1997. It would be 10 years before Haynes made his MLB debut.
Nathan Haynes played baseball all around the United States in his minor league days, including stops in Erie, Salt Lake, Gary, and Durham.
Haynes finally made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007, after a very long road. In 2007 Haynes played 40 games with the Angels, hitting .267 with a .313 on-base percentage.
The Tampa Bay Rays selected Haynes off waivers after spring training in 2008, and he played the first month and a half with the Rays.
In those games, Haynes hit .227 with only three RBIs. However, Haynes’s most memorable moment with the Tampa Bay Rays came on April 25th, 2008.
In the bottom of the 11th inning in a game against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Haynes hit a walk-off RBI single off Mike Timlin, scoring Carl Crawford. That pushed the Rays record to 12-11, and they never looked back.
The Rays would never fall under .500 after the Haynes walk off, and we all know how the 2008 season ended.
Former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Nate Karns made his MLB Debut May 28th, 2013
Does anyone remember Nate Karns? I do.
Karns made his MLB debut with the Washington Nationals on this date in 2013. In that game, Karns pitched 4.1 innings against the Orioles, allowing three runs on five hits. Karns only pitched two more games for the Nats in 2013, before being traded to the Rays after the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays gave up a bit for Karns, trading Drew Vettleson, Felipe Vazquez, and Jose Lobaton. Lobaton by the way, one of the most underrated catchers in Rays history in my opinion. But that’s a story for another time.
Karns didn’t do much for the Rays in 2014, pitching in only two games for the club, going 1-1.
2015 was the best year of Nate’s career, and it happened for the Rays. Karns made 26 starts for the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching to a 7-5 record, 3.67 ERA, 106 ERA+, and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Very respectable for a 27-year-old.
The Tampa Bay Rays however would trade Nate Karns after the 2015 season in a pretty big trade that broke down like this:
At the time, I remember being confused about the trade, because it appeared Karns was solid. However, it appears the Tampa Bay Rays made the right move.
Karns pitched to a 5.15 ERA in 22 games with the Mariners in 2016 before being traded to Kansas City for the 2017 season. Karns pitched in 9 games with the Royals in 2017, and four games with the O’s in 2019.
Happy Birthday to Former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike DiFelice!
A quick birthday note to wrap up the memories. Former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike DiFelice turns 52-years-old today.
DiFelice was one of the few players to play both for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Tampa Bay Rays.
DeFelice joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998 after he was selected in the 1997 expansion draft from the St. Louis Cardinals. DeFelice played three and a half seasons with the Devil Rays before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
Seven years later, DiFelice returned to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, playing seven games with the team at the age of 39.
In total, DiFelice hit .248 in parts of five seasons with the Rays. In exactly 800 at-bats with the Rays, DiFelice hit 17 home runs, with 82 RBIs.
In addition to his hitting, DiFelice gunned down 84 runners trying to steal behind the plate. In every season with the Rays, Mike’s caught stealing percentage was higher than league average.
Well, there it is. Another off-day memories article. Enjoy your Friday off-day from Rays baseball, and get ready for a quick weekend with the Phillies starting on Saturday!