Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mike Perez, Surprised Return - 34

Originally published Dec. 3, 2011
Mike Perez started 1995 with three relief appearances, picking up a save, a hold and giving up just two hits.

It was a good start. It was also a start that came less than a year after rotator cuff surgery, The Chicago Tribune wrote.

"I was kind of surprised I could come back and pitch after the surgery, but I believe it proves I'm healthy," Perez told The Tribune. He added later, "Last year was a terrible year. I'm just trying to have fun and prove that I'm back."

Perez went on to get into 68 games for the Cubs in 1995, posting an ERA of 3.66. It was the second-most number of appearances in Perez' six big league seasons to that point. He ended up pitching in two more.

Perez made the majors first in 1990, with the team that drafted him, the Cardinals. St. Louis selected Perez in the 12th round of the 1986 draft, out of the University of Florida.

Perez played that first season at rookie Johnson City, posting a 2.97 ERA in 18 outings. The next year, in 1987, he posted a sub-1 ERA at single-A Springfield. In 58 relief outings that year, Perez had an ERA of 0.85.

He made AA Arkansas for the first time in 1988, then AAA Louisville for the first time in 1990. Perez debuted with St. Louis as a September call-up in 1990. He got into 13.2 innings, giving up six earned runs.

Perez returned to St. Louis for 14 more games in 1991, giving up 11 earned runs in 17 innings of work. In 1992, though, Perez got more regular big league work, the most work he would see in his career.

Perez saw time in 77 games in 1992. In those 93 innings, he posted a 1.83 ERA. He also picked up nine wins in relief, his seventh in August with the help of a Luis Alicea defensive snag.

"I was just trying to keep the ball down," Perez told The Associated Press after picking up that win. "Thanks to a great play by Luis, we got the double play. If he doesn't get it, we lose."

Perez got into another 65 outings in 1993. He also picked up seven saves. That September, after the Cardinals traded Lee Smith, Perez was even looked at as the possible new closer.

Perez, though, wasn't interested, he told The Associated Press. Perez called himself a quiet guy, someone who went in, did his job and went home. Not the type of person to be a closer.

"I'm happy with what I'm doing right now," Perez told The AP. "I don't see any reason to change."

Then came 1994 and Perez' shoulder problems. He got into 36 games, but posted an ERA over 8. After that comeback year with the Cubs in 1995, Perez got into 24 games with Chicago in 196, then 16 with the Royals in 1997, with the Royals, ending his career.

Cris Carpenter, Other Pitches - 10

Originally published Aug. 4, 2011
Cris Carpenter believed in his fastball going into 1988, but he also knew he needed more, he told The Associated Press.

And he would need all of them to fulfill the talk that he might see the majors that year, after not pitching professionally the previous season as contract negotiations dragged on.

"I've got to get better with my other two pitches, my slider and my changeup " Carpenter told The AP in early March. "If I can just show the hitter I have other pitches, it's only going to help."

Carpenter would go on to make the Cardinals in 1988, getting eight starts and going 2-3. But, while the starter-turned-reliever would go on to play in parts of eight major league seasons, by 1992, he hadn't done well enough for the Cardinals to protect him in that year's expansion draft.

Carpenter's professional career began as the highly touted product out of the University of Georgia. He pitched for Team USA in the 1987 Pan American Games, helping get the U.S. to the championship against Cuba. In the championship, though, Cuba amassed five runs off Carpenter, two earned, for the win. Still, he got the tournament MVP award.

"I can throw every day," Carpenter told The Chicago Tribune after the August game. "My arm rarely gets sore. I can't explain it, but I'd rather throw every day. But today, in the eighth, I started getting the ball up, and it almost seemed as if they were waiting for me to get tired and do that."

Carpenter then was already long since in the midst of contract negotiations with the Cardinals. He'd been taken by St. Louis 14th overall in that June's draft.

He told reporters days after the Cuba game that he'd hoped to have been playing professionally by then.

"It's obvious that I'm getting a lot of money for signing," Carpenter told reporters. "I'm the highest-paid Cardinal rookie ever. It seems to me that they're just not real thrilled to be paying me this."

Carpenter signed, though, shortly afterward. By mid-May 1988, Carpenter was in the majors, called up after a string of injuries.

In his second major league start, Carpenter showed that first-round promise. He pitched a complete-game, four-hitter against the Cubs. On the season, though, Carpenter's ERA landed at 4.72 in eight starts.

Carpenter came back in 1989, largely as a reliever. He got into 36 games, with an ERA of 3.18. In spring 1990, though, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was down on the right-hander. Carpenter got off to a slow start that spring.

"If Carpenter doesn't throw any better than he's been throwing, he isn't going to get anybody out," Herzog told The AP before Carpenter went two innings of relief, giving up two hits. "He's got to open our eyes."

Carpenter got into just four games for the Cardinals in 1990, spending the rest of the year at AAA Louisville. In 1991, though, he went 10-4 in 59 relief appearances. In 1992, he posted a 2.97 ERA in 73 appearances.

But that wasn't enough for the Cardinals to protect him in the expansion draft, the Marlins selecting him away for 1993. He stayed with the Marlins until mid-season, posting a 2.89 ERA in 29 starts. He was then dealt to the Rangers.

With the Rangers, though, his ERA increased to 4.22. In 1994, he was tried in the closer's role. By late June, he'd blown five save opportunities in 10 tries. That May, according to The Baltimore Sun, Carpenter responded to one blown save by explaining, "I never said I was a great pitcher."

Carpenter returned to the Cardinals' system for 1995, but played the year back at Louisville. For 1996, he signed with the Brewers, getting into his final eight major league games, the former first-rounder's ERA hitting 7.56.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Julian Martinez, Old Friend - 25

Originally published Jan. 29, 2011
Julian Martinez helped Sammy Sosa, but he helped others on the Cubs, too, Sosa told The Chicago Tribune in October 2003. Martinez certainly wasn't Sosa's valet.

"I want people outside the lines to understand why he's here," Sosa told The Tribune of Martinez. "He's not here for me. He's here because he helps everybody. Anything he can do to help a player get ready to play the game, he'll do it."

Martinez began working with Sosa in 1999, but their relationship dated back much further, to 1986 when the Dominican natives playing in the minor leagues, The Tribune wrote.

While their playing careers began in similar fashion, they would quickly diverge, with Sosa going on to star in an era of big home runs. Martinez would play eight seasons professionally, a career played exclusively in the minors.

Martinez' playing career began in 1985, signed by the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic. The infielder played that year at rookie league Johnson City, hitting .194 in 21 games.

He moved to single-A Savannah in 1986, staying there for 1987. He hit .258 and then .227 for the single-A club over the two years.

Martinez scored the go-ahead run in an April 1987 contest with Sumter. That June, against Sumter again, Martinez knocked in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-0 game, The Sumter Daily Item wrote.

For 1988, Martinez stayed in single-A, playing at St. Petersburg, hitting .251, getting a game-winning single in an April against Lakeland. He won his promotion to AA Arkansas in 1989, playing the season there, maintaining his average at .255, and hitting nine home runs. He also made the Texas League All-Star team.

Martinez hit AAA Louisville for 1990, hitting just .213 and two home runs for the Redbirds. He scored the game-tying run in an April game and in a July game. Martinez returned to Louisville for 1991, then finished out his playing career in 1992 back at AA with Arkansas.

Martinez joined Sosa and the Cubs in 1999, paid by Sosa and serving as Sosa's assistant, but also helping other players, The Tribune wrote.

His future with the team and Sosa was in doubt in 2004 when baseball cracked down on non-baseball people in the clubhouse, The Tribune wrote. The Cubs were trying to get around the order by giving Martinez a more formal title.

Sosa and Martinez eventually parted ways professionally, but remained friends. When Sosa returned to baseball in 2007 with the Rangers, Martinez was with the Nationals as a bullpen catcher. That was also the year that Martinez' old friend hit his long-delayed 600th home run.

"I'm really happy for him, especially after what he went through," Martinez told MLB.com that June after Sosa hit his milestone. "He has 600, so now he is going to be more relaxed. I'm going to celebrate for him."

Ray Stephens, Up In The Air - 39

Originally published Sept. 13, 2010
Ray Stephens had 11 major league games under his belt, five in 1990 and six in 1991, all with the Cardinals. Now, in spring training 1992, the Phillies were looking for backup catcher and they were looking to Stephens.

But it was a brief look. Stephens went 3 for 23 for the Phillies that spring, according to The Reading Eagle, and Phillies GM Lee Thomas was polite in his comments.

"That job is still up in the air, and that's all I care to say about it at this point," Thomas told The Reading Eagle in late March. "I'm sure there'll be some free agents walking around out there soon, and we'll take a look."

Stephens didn't make the Phillies that spring. But he did get one more look at the majors.

By June, Stephens was traded to the Rangers and by July he was in Texas for eight more major league games. The time with Texas brought his major league game total to 19, where it would remain.

Stephens' career began in 1985, when he was selected by the Cardinals in the sixth round of Troy State. He saw time that year at both short-season Erie and single-A Savannah. He hit .222 on the season.

He returned to Savannah in 1986, then jumped directly to AAA Louisville, getting a 12-game look with the Redbirds, hitting .194. Stephens spent 1987 largely at AA Arkansas, alternating from there between AA and AAA through 1990.

In an April 1988 game with Louisville, Stephens helped the Redbirds get out to a 4-0 lead with a fourth-inning single. A double in June game helped Louisville to a 4-2 win. That spring, Stephens hit a home run in a Cardinals spring training win, before being sent to Louisville.

Stephens hit another home run in spring training 1990, hitting it leading off the ninth inning to tie the game. But he was sent back to Louisville. It was in September 1990 that Stephens got his first look at the majors, with St. Louis, called up Sept. 3.

Stephens saw his first action Sept. 20, getting his first major league hit in the sixth inning. It was a home run. It was the first of two hits Stephens got that year in 15 plate appearances, the other was a double.

Stephens returned for 1991, to Louisville. He got back to St. Louis with another September call-up. He struck out on three pitches in a Sept. 13 game.

By spring 1992, Stephens was in Phillies camp, competing for the backup catching spot. But by June, with a season spent at AAA Scranton, Stephens was shipped to Texas for a player to be named. He was called up in late July, getting into two games before another late September call-up.

In one late September game, Stephens and the Rangers ran into Randy Johnson. Johnson struck out 18, three of the strikeouts were of Stephens. But these were Stephens' final games in the majors. He hung on one more year in the minors, at AAA Oklahoma City, ending his career.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Steve Trout, Improved Greatly - 41

Steve Trout didn't quite live up to his potential with the White Sox, but two seasons after a crosstown trade, Trout seemed to finally be there.

In early October 1984, Trout seemed to show the world as he pitched the Cubs to within one win of the World Series.

"Trout has excellent action on the ball and today he had them beating it into the ground," Cubs' Manager Jim Frey told reporters after the 4-2 Cubs win. "When he throws strikes he can get outs as well as anyone in the league. He has improved greatly."

Trout helped the Cubs to that spot by turning in perhaps the best season of his career. He went 13-7, with a 3.41 ERA and picked up one of the two Cubs postseason victories.

He went on to continue in the majors through 1989, seeing time in 12 major league seasons in all. He went 88-92 overall, with a career 4.18 ERA.

Trout's career in baseball began in 1976, taken by the White Sox in the first round of the draft out of Thornwood High School in Illinois. Trout is the son of longtime major leaguer Dizzy Trout.

Trout started with the White Sox in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He moved to single-A Appleton in 1977 and got a look at AAA Iowa.

He then got his first look at the majors in 1978. He went 3-0, with a 4.03 ERA in four outings. He then returned for 1979 and went 11-8, with a 3.89 in 34 outings, 18 starts.

Trout stayed with the White Sox through 1982, but he never had a record of better than 11-8. For 1983, the White Sox traded him to the Cubs. He picked up the club's first win of 1983, going into the ninth against the Expos.

"I have been known to blow some leads, but luckily that didn't happen today," Trout told UPI after that win.

Trout went 10-14 for the Cubs that first year and 13-7 in 1984. After Trout's playoff win, Cubs pitching coach Billy Connors spoke to The Washington Post about how Trout had changed for the better.

"He's arrived," Connors told The Post. "He's gotten control of himself. He's matured this year. Before, he was a little kid who lived in a fantasy world, doing things he couldn't do."

Trout played with the Cubs into 1987, when he was traded mid-year to the Yankees. He then played for the Mariners in 1988 and 1989. He signed with the Cardinals for 1990 and played briefly at AAA Louiville to end his career.

Trout has since stayed in the game by starting his own academy and he's written books, a children's book and a memoir. In 2010, he served as a high school baseball coach in Hawaii.

"Since I make baseball my livelihood — I've been in the game 30-plus years — I thought it would be a good thing to do," Trout told The Honolulu Advertiser after taking the job at Moloka'i High School in March 2010. "It's something I enjoy."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,730
Made the Majors:1,042-38.2%-X
Never Made Majors:1,688-61.8%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 431-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:263

1990 Chattanooga Lookouts

Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2016, home to the 1990 Chattanooga Lookouts. (Greatest 21 Days)
Features on each member of the 1990 Chattanooga Lookouts, AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Chattanooga Lookouts (26)
1 - Doug Banning, Second Run, 8/14/17
2 - Freddie Benavides, Advanced To, 8/3/17
3 - Jeff Branson, Good Contact, 8/6/17
4 - Joe Bruno, His Future, 8/12/17
5 - Adam Casillas, Most Unselfish, 8/2/17
6 - Benny Colvard, His Role, 8/11/17
7 - Gregg Crain, Sports Injuries, 8/1/17
8 - Tony DeFrancesco, Communication Skills, 8/10/17
9 - Bill Dodd, Playing Baseball, 8/19/17
10 - Brian Finley, Ninth Inning, 8/19/17
11 - Jeff Forney, Skills Learned, 8/18/17
12 - Steve Foster, Career Ender, 8/16/17
13 - Don Gullett, Right Temperament, 8/11/17
14 - Alan Hayden, More Experience, 7/30/17
15 - Butch Henry, His Experience, 6/21/15
16 - Keith Kaiser, Two Lives, 8/7/17
17 - Jeff Lazor, Next Comparison, 8/6/17
18 - Terry Lee, So Successful, 8/13/17
19 - Greg Lonigro, Future Expansion, 8/5/17
20 - Gino Minutelli, Found It, 3/12/16
21 - Mike Moscrey, Title Clincher, 8/12/17
22 - Jerome Nelson, His Part, 7/31/17
23 - Ross Powell, Good Stuff, 8/15/17
24 - Rosario Rodriguez, Key Outs, 8/8/17
25 - Mel Rosario, Special Instructions, 8/13/17
26 - Jim Tracy, His Steadiness, 8/5/17

Gaylen Pitts, Around Long - 3

Originally published May 21, 2012
Gaylen Pitts made the majors in May 1974, and he quickly made an impact. He got hits in three of his first four games, including a three-hit effort in his fourth. The third hit proved the game winner.

And finally got to do it - in his 10th season as a pro.

"I probably won't be around long," Pitts told reporters afterward. "But this is a funny game. You never know."

Pitts didn't last long in the majors. In a playing career that spanned 13 total seasons, he played in 28 total games in the big leagues.

Pitts, though, has ended up sticking around in the game. His playing career ending, Pitts moved on to a lengthy career as a coach, manager and coordinator that continues in 2012.

Pitts' baseball career began in 1964, signed by the Cardinals as a free agent out of Mountain Home High School in Arkansas. He stayed with the Cardinals as a player into 1971, making AAA Tulsa.

He moved to the Athletics system in mid-1971, making Oakland for the first time in 1974. Pitts got into 18 total games that year, hitting .244. He then returned for 10 more games in 1975, getting three more at bats, marking the extent of his major league career.

Pitts last played in the minors in 1977. By 1978, he was managing at single-A Modesto in the California League at the young age of 31. He also returned to the organization that originally signed him, the Cardinals.

Pitts spent much of the next 30 years as a manager in the Cardinals system. He managed AA Arkansas for four seasons in the 1980s. For 1990, he managed AAA Louisville.

He returned to the majors in 1991 as Cardinals assistant coach. He also pegged young Ray Lankford that spring as having a bright future that spring, having seen him each of the past two seasons.

"By the time you think he's going into a slump, he'll rocket a ball somewhere," Pitts told The Associated Press. "He's going to be good."

Pitts moved to bullpen coach for 1992, staying there into 1995, returning to managing at AAA for 1997 and staying there into 2002.

After serving as hitting coach at AAA Indianapolis in 2003, Pitts took time off, The Memphis Commercial-Appeal wrote. He returned to managing in 2006 and to the Cardinals system in 2007.

For 2009, Pitts became Cardinals special assistant for player development, using the experience he gained as a manager in the minors to work with the organization's managers in the minors, The Commercial Appeal wrote. He continues in that role for 2012.

''I try to stay positive with everybody because I know how tough managing is,'' Pitts told The Commercial Appeal. ''I pat 'em on the back and say you're doing a helluva job, keep up the good work. I know when I managed and guys came in, it always made me feel good when somebody tells you you're doing a good job because a lot of times you don't hear that.''

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