May 8, 1979: Rick Rhoden Makes Pirates Debut in Loss to Atlanta

The Pirates traded Jerry Reuss for Rick Rhoden on April 7, knowing that Rhoden was having some arm problems.  He wasn’t able to make his debut until May 8, against Atlanta.  He went five innings, allowing four runs.  The Pirates couldn’t do much at all against Eddie Solomon, though, as he gave up just three hits in a complete game.  The Braves won, 4-1.

The Pirates started well enough, as Omar Moreno led off the game with a triple and scored on a fly ball by Tim Foli.

Rhoden also started well, with a 1-2-3 inning in the first.  Things got tougher in the second, though, as Glenn Hubbard drove in a run with a single and Darrel Chaney plated two more with a double, making it 3-0.  Atlanta made it 4-0 in the third, as Gary Matthews doubled, went to third on a grounder and scored on a passed ball by Ed Ott.

Rhoden settled down after that, giving up just a walk in the next two innings.  Fittingly, he singled in his first Pirate at-bat.  Matt Alexander pinch hit for Rhoden in the top of the sixth, which may not have been the best deployment of offensive ability.

Solomon meanwhile was shutting down the Pirates.  Bill Robinson reached on an error in the second, but got caught trying to advance to second.  Rhoden’s third-inning single was wiped out by a double play.  After that, Moreno’s two-out single in the sixth produced the Bucs’ only other baserunner.  The bullpen did its job, with Jim Bibby throwing two and two-thirds scoreless innings and Grant Jackson getting the last out in the eighth.

After the game, the Pirates put Rhoden on the disabled list with a sore shoulder.  They made another move as well, signing Joe Coleman, a veteran right-hander who’d been released by the Giants on April 21.  Coleman had been a workhorse starter for the Senators and Tigers from the late-1960s to the mid-1970s.  He’d thrown 200 or more innings for eight straight years and 280 or more for four straight.  By 1975 he was worn down, posting a 5.55 ERA for Detroit.  He eventually transitioned to the bullpen.  San Francisco signed him as a free agent for 1979 and he appeared in five games, allowing two runs, both unearned, on three hits and two walks in three and two-thirds innings.  Coleman initially went to the Pirates’ AAA affiliate in Portland.

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