KC Royals: How Kowar’s debut stacks up against KC’s best

(Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Paul Splittorff
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Jackson Kowar’s debut for the KC Royals Monday night definitely wasn’t something to behold. Pitching against the American League West Division’s fourth-place Angels, Kowar didn’t survive the first inning. Los Angeles took full advantage of his control and command problems, his three wild pitches, and the three hits and two walks he gave up in just two-thirds of an inning. They scored four runs off the rookie, enough for an 8-3 win.

But how does the young righthander’s first regular season exposure to major league hitters compare to those of the Royals’ top all-time starters, the half-dozen hurlers—Paul Splittorff, Dennis Leonard, Mark Gubicza, Kevin Appier, Larry Gura and Bret Saberhagen—who won at least 100 games for Kansas City?

Let’s start with Saberhagen.

Teen Bret Saberhagen stifled the New York Yankees in his KC Royals debut.

At the tender age of 19 and just a season removed from his first professional campaign, an impressive 16-7 season split between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Jacksonville, Saberhagen threw his first big league pitch in 1984 against the New York Yankees at then Royals Stadium.

Saberhagen relieved starter Paul Splittorff with no outs in the fourth and the Royals trailing 4-2 in the season’s second game. He faced just four batters and didn’t give up any runs that inning, then retired the Yanks in order in the fifth and seventh, and pitched to only four hitters in the sixth. Although he didn’t record a strikeout, he walked no one, gave up only three singles, and held New York scoreless in his 4.2 innings. Kansas City lost 4-3.

Saberhagen went on to win 110 games in his eight Kansas City seasons, good for sixth on the club’s all-time list, and was on the mound for the final out of the Royals’ 1985 World Series championship. He won two Cy Young awards with the club, later pitched for the Mets, Rockies, and Red Sox, and finished his 16-year career with 167 victories.