Aaron Whitefield has become the 35th Australian to play Major League Baseball, making a cameo appearance as a pinch runner in Minnesota’s 10-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The 23-year-old Queenslander replaced left fielder Eddie Rosario after he singled on a fly ball with one out in the top of the ninth at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday.
Whitefield was unable to use his speed and advance as White Sox reliever Jimmy Lambert got Marwin Gonzalez to fly out in foul territory on the first pitch he saw before retiring Max Kepler to end the contest.
Team Australia outfielder Whitefield made his debut at the same ballpark where Twins teammate Lewis Thorpe, in June last year, become the 34th Australian to play MLB.
Whitefield was a surprise selection in the Twins’ 30-strong roster to some in the US but he’s shown his ability in Minor League and Australian Baseball League, especially on the basepaths.
He has stolen 115 bases in 357 Minor League games and 64 in 169 games in the ABL, including a league-high 23 during the 2019-20 season.
The two-time Helms Award recipient and three-time ABL Championship winner has also shown he is dangerous with the bat and averaged .376 with Adelaide last season.
Whitefield is expected to get most of his chances on the bases and in defence for now as Minnesota look to gain the edge late in contests during a 60-game sprint rather than 162-game MLB marathon due to COVID-19.
Dallas Keuchel dominated early for the White Sox and Chicago whacked five home runs to claim game two of the series after the Twins won on Opening Day.
Victorian Thorpe did not enter the game for Minnesota and is still waiting to make his season debut.
Meanwhile, Aussie pitcher Liam Hendriks was unused as his Oakland Athletics lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles in the second of their four-match series in as many days.
On Friday, Hendriks was called on as expected in the ninth innings to protect a 3-2 lead but he allowed a game-tying home run – however, the A’s managed to complete a 7-3 in the first extra inning.