Smith a reminder of Villacis' KC debut

Smith a reminder of Villacis' KC debut

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday night, left-hander Will Smith became just the second Royals pitcher to make his Major League debut with a starting assignment in the daunting environment of Yankee Stadium. The first was little-remembered right-hander Eduardo Villacis, who started at the original Yankee Stadium on May 1, 2004, making a spot start in place of injured lefty Darrell May.

Villacis was a surprise choice, plucked from Double-A Wichita with a 2-0 record, a 2.41 ERA and a knack for throwing strikes. He had pitched just five games above the Class A level in his career.

"Coming up to the Major Leagues is the dream of every baseball player, so I'm going to enjoy it and have fun with it," the 24-year-old product of Venezuela said with confidence after his arrival. "I'm expecting the best of myself."

A crowd of 54,103 roared when Derek Jeter welcomed Villacis with a line-drive single. The righty's debut was brief, 3 1/3 innings in which he gave up five runs -- three on a Ruben Sierra homer run -- in a 12-4 loss. Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams also got hits off Villacis, who said he tried to blot out the famous names.

"When I saw all of the players come up to the plate, I just wanted to get them out and forgot about who they were and just threw the ball," Villacis said after the game. "I never felt afraid or anything."

Villacis gave up six hits and four walks, threw a wild pitch and made an error on a pickoff attempt. Sent back to Wichita after the game, Villacis later that month was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. By 2006, his pro career was over.

And that one bright, sunny afternoon at Yankee Stadium marked the only Major League game he played.