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Thursday August 18th

Tar Heels in the pros: Former UNC players ball out in shortened season

Zac Gallen opened the game as pitcher against Campbell during Tuesday night's game.
Buy Photos Zac Gallen opened the game as pitcher against Campbell during Tuesday night's game.

With a quarter of Major League Baseball’s shortest season since 1878 already in the books, it's become clear that the 60-game campaign could provide some unexpected outcomes. 

As the calendar approaches September — a time when most teams are usually gearing up for playoff runs or evaluating prospects — the NL East leading Miami Marlins have nine wins.

Despite the oddity of baseball’s shortest season in over a century, nine former members of the North Carolina baseball team worked their way onto Opening Day rosters. Here’s a look at how a few of them have played. 

Zac Gallen

Gallen broke into the Major Leagues last June. Since then, the right-handed starter has amassed an impressive 2.80 ERA — tied for the 8th best in the League since his debut — in 103.0 innings pitched. In his second season in the MLB, Gallen has taken another step forward in his development. 

The right-hander’s breaking balls have been his biggest ally, as he has tallied an impressive 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched across the season — just 0.3 lower than Jacob deGrom posted during a 2019 campaign in which he led the National League in strikeouts. 

Perhaps most impressive of all, Gallen is yet to allow more than three earned runs in any of his 19 Major League starts, earning him a National League record for most consecutive starts to begin a career with less than 3 earned runs. With just three more starts, Gallen could pass a 26-year-old MLB record of 21 games. 

For a Diamondback’s team that could use an ace as they battle for a playoff berth in the NL West, Gallen could serve as a centerpiece in the rotation for years to come. 

Kyle Seager

Now in his 10th year of MLB service, Kyle Seager has continued to provide steady leadership in the middle of the line-up for a rebuilding Seattle Mariners team. 

Despite his team sitting 9.5 games behind the AL West leading Oakland A’s, Seager has put together a successful season in Seattle. The third baseman slashed his 200th career home run in a 7-6 win over the Angels on Aug. 6, joining a group of just three other Mariners to do so — Ken Griffey Jr. (417), Edgar Martinez (309) and Jay Buhner (307). 

Along with Seager’s three home runs on the season, he has pieced together an .853 OPS, his highest since a 2016 season. His .288 batting average through 23 games would stand as the highest in his career if it holds throughout the year. 

With a roster that stood as the second youngest in the MLB in 2019, the veteran presence of the 32-year-old Seager could play a key role in continued development for a struggling Mariners team. 

Daniel Bard

After spending six years away from the MLB, Daniel Bard has returned to the mound in impressive fashion. 

Starting his career in the back of the Boston Red Sox bullpen, Bard looked to be on the verge of becoming one of the game’s elite closers. In 2010 — Bard’s second Major League season — the right-hander posted a dominant 1.93 ERA across 73 appearances. 2011 was arguably even better, as Bard kept opponent’s line-ups off of the bases almost entirely with a 0.959 WHIP, putting him in the company of some of the League’s best pitchers. 

After a failed move to the starting rotation resulted in the yips — a psychological barrier that has caused numerous Major Leaguers to lose their ability to throw — Bard returned to the game at 35 years old and has pitched like a bullpen anchor through 10 appearances. 

In spite of his struggles with accuracy in the past, Bard has posted a near perfect strikeout-to-walk ratio with 13 punch outs to just one walk. Despite his long absence, Bard has burst back into the Major League as one of the game's best bullpen arms through the quarter-way mark. 


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