Villanueva becomes latest ex-Pelican to make majors

Former Myrtle Beach Pelicans infielder Christian Villanueva made his major league debut Monday with the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Villanueva is the third Pelicans alumnus to debut in The Show over the last nine days and the 169th player, including the 13th this season, to don a Myrtle Beach jersey and play in the big leagues.

A native of Guadalajara in Mexico, Villanueva played third base and went 0-for-3 in San Diego’s 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 26-year-old had spent eight seasons with three different organizations in the minor leagues before finally reaching The Show.

Signed by the Texas Rangers in 2009, Villanueva starred for Myrtle Beach in 2012, batting .285/.356/.421 with 19 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 59 RBIs in 100 games. Villanueva’s average finished seventh in the Carolina League during that campaign, but he was dealt along with right-hander Kyle Hendricks to the Chicago Cubs at the trading deadline in exchange for big league righty Ryan Dempster.

Villanueva reached as high as Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs’ organization, but after missing the 2016 season with an injury, he elected free agency and signed with San Diego. In 2017 with Triple-A El Paso, Villanueva slashed .296/.369/.528 with 28 doubles, two triples, 20 homers and 86 RBIs in 109 games before receiving his promotion to the majors.

Former Birds outfielder Jacob Hannemann debuted for Seattle on September 9 and ex-Myrtle Beach right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng made his first career start for the Cubs on September 14, meaning Villanueva is the third Pelicans alumnus to make his major league debut in the last nine days. Utility players Drew Robinson (Texas) and Chris Bostick (Pittsburgh), left-handed pitcher Chad Bell (Detroit), infielder/outfielder Ian Happ (Cubs), outfielders Lewis Brinson (Milwaukee), Mark Zagunis (Cubs), Nick Williams (Philadelphia), catcher Victor Caratini (Cubs) and right-handed pitchers Paul Blackburn (Oakland) and Dillon Maples (Cubs) are also former Myrtle Beach farmhands to make their big league debut this season.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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