Edinson Volquez of the Dominican Republic was 17 when he was signed by the Texas Rangers under the alias of 16-year-old Julio Reyes, a gambit orchestrated by a street agent to enhance his marketability.
Kendrys Morales escaped Cuba in 2004 on his 13th try.
Alex Rios was born in Puerto Rico, Franklin Morales and Yohan Pino hail from Venezuela.
Then there’s Chris Young, whose Princeton education and basketball career belied the likelihood of a Major League Baseball career.
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Along with Ryan Madson, who had a more obvious path here unless you count the fact he hadn’t thrown a pitch in the big-leagues since 2011, this is the far-flung assemblage that Royals general manager Dayton Moore spackled in to the core group with his relentless offseason after his team’s World Series berth.
There are infinite reasons as to why the Royals somehow have become more captivating in the wake of their first postseason appearance since 1985, including the further awakenings of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez, yet more mesmerizing defense and the bewitching back end of the bullpen.
But this delicious, delirious start to the season has hinged plenty on the newcomers — most notably Volquez, Kendrys Morales, Young, Madson and Rios, who had eight RBIs in seven games before he suffered a broken hand.
Despite wearing the defeat in the Royals’ 2-1 loss to Detroit on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium, Volquez easily has been the team’s most reliable starter, both in terms of ERA (1.91 entering the game Saturday) and innings pitched 34.1).
Morales leads the team with 20 RBIs, including three on Friday night, when Young (five innings) and Madson (two) combined to hold Detroit hitless through seven innings.
“I had no idea,” Madson said, laughing. “And that’s a good thing.”
Like about everything the group has done.
And there are some deeper and more important and compelling elements to that.
For one thing, it speaks significantly to Moore and his staff’s resourcefulness in identifying needs and scrutinizing who can fill them.
For another, the resilience of the group is an inspiration in itself.
Because the most improbable aspects of their arrival here aren’t so much about the variety of their origins but where they’ve been along the way — especially in the recent past.
Moore might as well have been reading from the Statue of Liberty when he ushered them in:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
At this time a year ago, Volquez was trying to restart his career in Pittsburgh after his 2013 season was defined by being released by the Padres after going 9-10 with a 6.01 ERA in 27 starts. He later made five starts for the Dodgers only for them to let him go, too.
He had a big 2014 season with the Pirates, but the next time he pitches 200 innings will be the first and who was to say he wouldn’t lapse into his pattern of wild inconsistency?
Instead, thus far he’s been the anchor of a surprisingly erratic rotation.
A year ago, Kendrys Morales was languishing out of baseball amid fruitless negotiations.
This, when he was finally getting his career cranked up again after taking nearly two years to recover from a freak leg injury in 2010.
By the time he signed with Minnesota in June, he couldn’t scrape off the rust he’d accumulated by missing spring training. He finished the season hitting .218 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 367 at-bats.
When the Royals signed him after declining to try to match Oakland’s whopping $30 million, three-year offer for Billy Butler and failing to win the negotiations in a bid for Torii Hunter, many around baseball scoffed that he’d be worth the $6.5 million they paid.
The Royals, though, still saw upside, believing that his timing was off simply because of time off. His bat speed, strength and approach remained intact, they thought, and gave him a strong chance to resume the form of the previous two seasons, when he averaged 22.5 home runs and 76.5 RBIs.
Many also wondered about the wisdom of signing Rios with the notion of adding power since he hit just four home runs in 492 at-bats for Texas in 2014.
Sure, he was hampered by a variety of injuries but not enough to keep him out until he was shut down for the season on Sept. 4 because of an infection on a bruise on his right thumb.
And on the mysteries of the miseries goes, maybe best epitomized in Young and Madson.
Young sat out the 2013 season recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, an excruciating condition that left him with such constant pain in his neck and shoulders that he’d considered retirement.
Remarkably, Young returned to become the American League Comeback Player of the Year for Seattle.
An 8.35 ERA in his final five starts last season made him expendable. But Moore and the Royals believed what Young believed, that his late diminishment was a function of fatigue, not regression.
That theory has held up: Young already had been an asset in the bullpen, but his nine-strikeout, no-hit performance in five innings on Friday may augur a bigger role ahead.
Then there’s Madson, who has given up just two runs in 13 innings over 10 games — which is 10 games more than anyone might ever have expected him to pitch again after arm injuries seemed to end his career.
But after Royals special assistant Jim Fregosi saw Madson throw 20 pitches in quirky circumstances a few months ago, he nudged Moore to take a look at the former Phillies closer.
His hunch that it was worth it proved worthwhile. Madson dazzled in spring training
Madson “had opportunities to go elsewhere if we didn’t decide to put him on the 25-man roster,” manager Ned Yost said. “And I just saw too much in the spring to let that happen, and it’s worked out really well for us so far.”
Better than anyone could have expected.
While the topic of all the resurgent careers amassed here doesn’t come up much among them, Madson said Young did allude to the comeback player of the year award the other day.
“He said, ‘I want to hand this off to you next year,’ ” Madson said, smiling. “So how cool is that?”
Even assuming Young is ineligible, he’ll have competition, of course, including Kendrys Morales in this clubhouse bolstered by the revitalized group of newcomers.