Yermín Mercedes has been waiting for this opportunity his entire life. After ten years spent grinding in three different organizations along with short stints in independent ball and Dominican winter ball, it was all been leading to this moment with the Chicago White Sox. His first career Major League start came and he did not let the opportunity pass him by.
The career journeyman recorded his first career hit then added four more for good measure. His five-hit performance marked the first time in Major League history that a player has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in their first career start.
The way Mercedes recorded his hits was equally impressive. Three of his five hits came with two strikes. He also drove in four of the White Sox twelve runs. All five of them were struck hard so he made sure to get his money’s worth at the plate.
Yermin Mercedes has won over plenty of fans during spring training with his stellar play and fun Instagram videos. Few people realize what a long road it has been for Mercedes to make it to the show. It took years of toiling in the Minor Leagues wondering if he would ever fulfill his dream of playing on the biggest stage.
"“At some point, I just wanted to give up. I just wanted to say, ‘I don’t want to play anymore I don’t know what I need to do, but yes, I want to give up,” Mercedes said after his opening day preformance. “But my family, my father, my mom said, ‘Hey, you can do it, keep working. You can do it. We trust in you because we know who you are.’"
His career started in the Dominican summer league in 2011. He spent three seasons there before playing for three different independent league teams during the 2014 season. Mercedes then made his way to the South Atlantic League and bounced between that and the Carolina League in 2016. Eventually, he worked all the way up to AAA then was moved back down to the Southern League. After nine seasons playing across the globe, he broke out in Spring training for the White Sox.
He was affectionally nicknamed “The Yerminator” after he racked during his 2020 Cactus League action. He led all catchers in home runs with four and drove in nine runs with a .381 batting average in 13 games. He was able to crack the Major League roster at one point during the 2020 season but he failed to record a hit and only received a single Major League at-bat.
His hot hitting in the Cactus carried over to 2021 and he earned a spot on the Major League club. Eloy Jimenez going down with an injury means it is all hands on deck for the White Sox offensively. Despite being the third catcher on the depth chart Tony La Russa thrust him into the starting lineup after just one game. The thought was he did not want Mercedes to get rusty on the bench after he had been raking all spring. La Russa is intent on mixing in a plethora of combinations at DH.
Mercedes took his opportunity and ran with it. The rest of the MLB should take notice because this journeyman might be here to stay. His historic performance may force Tony La Russa’s hand into playing him a second consecutive game.