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Rookie Arms Lifting Contenders

They're young enough to still have fresh memories of their high school prom, but rookie starting pitchers are being relied upon this year more than at any other time in baseball history.

There will be more starts by rookie pitchers by the end of August than ever before, according to Elias Sports Bureau. There have been 643 starts by rookies - 31 shy of the record set in 2002. Just last Tuesday, 13 rookies started games.

These kids are not just filling holes in the rotation, they also are thriving for contenders. There are six rookie pitchers with at least nine victories this season - the second-largest total on this date in the last 40 years. There were seven nine-game rookie winners in 2002.

"I really don't know the reason," Detroit Tigers President David Dombrowski says, "but part of it would seem to be teams are more willing to give them an opportunity."

The first-place Tigers are relying on 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello, who has won 10 games.

He is joined by fellow 10-game winners Jeff Niemann of the Tampa Bay Rays and Ricky Romero of the Toronto Blue Jays; and nine-game winners J.A. Happ of the Philadelphia Phillies, Matt Palmer of the Los Angeles Angels and Randy Wells of the Chicago Cubs.

The Texas Rangers are relying on youth more than any other contender. They have four young starters, including rookies Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter. It's reminiscent of the 1969 New York Mets, Hall of Famer Tom Seaver says, when they won the World Series with five starters having two full years of experience or fewer.

"When we won, everybody said it was a miracle," Seaver says. "Miracles happen when you have pitching and defense up the middle. What the Texas Rangers are doing is pretty amazing."

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