Who is Kent Emanuel? Astros rookie dazzles in MLB debut

Kent Emanuel wants you to know that he should have made his major league debut in 2020, not 2021. He blames MLB for that, and we’ll get to why in a minute.

First, though, is the matter of what Emanuel accomplished when he finally did appear in his first game. The Astros rookie replaced injured starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (forearm tightness) with one out in the first inning and then worked the remaining 8 2/3 frames in Houston’s 16-2 victory over the Angels.

Emanuel allowed two runs, five hits and no walks to go with five strikeouts. He needed just 90 pitches (65 strikes) to turn back LA.

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So, about that supposed delayed debut: That’s the first item in SN’s quick sketch of baseball’s latest instant newsmaker.

Emanuel’s jersey number is 0 for a very specific reason

The digit is for “the number of games I deserved to be suspended” for PEDs last August, Emanuel said this week after his call-up from the Astros’ alternate site. MLB suspended Emanuel for 80 games last August after he tested positive for DHCMT, or oral turinabol. Emanuel said at the time that he didn’t knowingly ingest a steroid.

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“I do not know how 7 picograms of the long-term metabolite of DHCMT got into my system,” he said in a statement released through the MLB Players Association. “But I know I have never knowingly or intentionally taken oral turinabol.” He wants MLB to adopt a 100-picogram threshold for suspensions. He also questions whether “Oral-T” actually enhances performance.

Emanuel, 28, was coming off his best minor league season when he was forced to sit out the 60-game 2020 season and the start of the Astros’ 2021 season. He was reinstated from the restricted list Thursday and promoted to the majors to replace pitcher Nivaldo Rodriguez, who was optioned to the alternate site.

Emanuel joined the Astros organization in the middle of their tank

Houston drafted the left-hander out of the University of North Carolina in 2013 with the first pick of the third round. Houston also took college pitchers with their first two picks: Mark Appel and Andrew Thurman. Both were busts, although Appel reportedly is attempting a comeback.

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The Astros lost 107 games in 2012, earning them the first pick in each round the next year. They lost 111 games in 2013 (and then missed with the first overall pick of the 2014 draft, Brady Aiken) before starting their move up the standings.

Emanuel didn’t contribute to the revival because he wasn’t good enough. From 2015-18, he posted ERAs of 3.68, 5.23, 7.71, 4.60 and 5.59 at his various minor league stops. His 3.90 ERA at Triple-A in 2019 earned him an opportunity to get to Houston.

Emanuel was a college and professional teammate of Colin Moran

Moran was so good a hitter for the Tar Heels that the Marlins drafted him sixth overall in 2013. Miami traded him to the Astros in July 2014, late in Houston’s tank, in a six-player swap of prospects that sent Enrique Hernandez to the Marlins and Jake Marisnick to the Astros.

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Moran and Emanuel played together with Double-A Corpus Christi in 2015 and were both on Triple-A Fresno’s roster in 2017. 

The Astros then used Moran as a trade chip the winter after the Astros won the 2017 World Series. He was dealt with Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz and Jason Martin to the penny-pinching Pirates for right-hander Gerrit Cole in January 2018.