Sunday, June 16, 2019

Carlos Delacruz, Division Hopes - 14

Originally published June 4, 2013
The Gulf Coast League White Sox needed a good pitching performance to keep their 1987 division hopes alive, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Carlos Delacruz delivered it.

In his second season as a pro that August, Delacruz pitched a complete game, six-hitter, giving up just a single run, The Herald-Tribune wrote.

Delacruz also got time that year at single-A Daytona. He went on to play in four more seasons, getting to AA Birmingham. Delacruz, though, would never make the majors.

Delacruz' career began in 1986, signed by the White Sox as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic.

With the White Sox, Delacruz started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, getting 14 outings, six starts. He went 2-4, with a 3.26 ERA.

He returned to the GCL for 1987, and hit single-A Daytona. Overall, he went 5-3, with a 2.44 ERA.

Delacruz moved to short-season Utica and single-A South Bend for 1988, then South Bend and single-A Sarasota for 1989.

As a full-time starter in 1989, Delacruz went 15-7 between South Bend and Sarasota, with a 2.55 ERA. In July, Delacruz threw a rain-shortened, three-hit shutout for Sarasota, Delacruz preventing any opposing runner from taking third base, according to The Herald-Tribune.

For 1990, Delacruz hit AA Birmingham, getting 12 starts there. He ended up going just 1-7, wit ha 7.55 ERA. He also got three outings back in the GCL. Ten final Gulf Coast League outings in 1991 and Delacruz' career was over.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Buddy Groom, Thankful For - 16

Originally published June 6, 2013
Toledo Mud Hen starter Buddy Groom only went five innings in this April 1992 contest, but they were shutout innings. They were also enough for the win, The Toledo Blade wrote.

Groom didn't go long, Groom told The Blade, because of concerns over his use that spring, and a change in pitching roles.

"My longest outing in spring training was four innings," Groom explained to The Blade. "I was in the big league camp and I was only pitching one-inning stints. But then (Tigers manager) Sparky (Anderson) tells me I'm a better starter. So I didn't want to go too long tonight."

As it turned out, Groom wasn't a better starter. He was a far better reliever. And, while he didn't rack up big save totals - he picked up just 27 over his 14 big league seasons - he did rack up big appearance totals.

From 1996 through 2002, Groom was trusted with the ball in 70 or more games each year, a span of seven seasons. In 2003 and 2004, he continued with 60 relief outings.

By the time Groom was done in 2005, he'd seen time in 786 total big league games, played for six different big league teams. His stint of 70-appearance seasons came with the Athletics and Orioles.

Groom's long professional career began in 1987, taken by the White Sox in the 12th round of the draft, out of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas.

He played his first season between the Gulf Coast League and single-A Daytona Beach, serving mostly as a starter. At single-A Tampa in 1988, Groom went 13-10, with a 2.54 ERA. He then went 13-8 at AA Birmingham in 26 starts in 1989, then returned to Birmingham for 1990.

Moving to the Tigers system for 1991 in the minor league draft, Groom got his first look at reliving. He got 35 outings, with just 13 starts, between AA London and AAA Toledo.

Groom then debuted in Detroit in 1992, with 12 outings, seven starts. He went 0-5, with a 5.82 ERA. In 19 outings, three starts in 1993, Groom went 0-2, with a 6.14 ERA.

In 1994 that Groom got his first extensive use in the majors, getting 40 relief outings. He then got 37 relief outings in 1995 between the Tigers and Marlins.

It was in 1996 that Groom started his string of seven-straight seasons with 70 or more relief outings. He did so with the Athletics, signing there as a free agent in the off-season.

Over his four seasons in Oakland, Groom never pitched in fewer than 72 games. In 1999, he led the league with 76 appearances. He then continued his streak over the next three seasons with the Orioles, getting into an even 70 games in each year.

From 2000 to 2001, Groom also had a streak of 67 appearances where he wasn't charged with a loss, according to The Baltimore Sun.

"I really had no idea. I don't even look at that stuff," Groom told The Sun in July 2001, after his lossless streak ended. "Other than how many runs I've given up, I don't know what my stats are unless somebody shows me. I just try to go out there when I'm called on to get guys out. If I don't get them out, then I work on the next night."

As for his 70-outing streak, Groom made it that year, and the next. In 2003 and 2004, Groom's durability continued, getting 60 outings in each of those years. His career ended in 2005, with 47 outings between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks.

As the 2001 season wound down, Groom's 70-outing streak appeared to be in jeopardy. Groom, though, wasn't worried about it, according to The Sun.

"I'm just hoping I can help the team when I get in there," Groom told The Sun. "It's never been something where I've felt like I've been overtaxed or it's been hard to do. I've been available to do it. That's the thing I'm thankful for."

Friday, June 14, 2019

Brian Drahman, For Him - 15

Originally published June 5, 2013
Going into spring training with the White Sox in 1991, Brian Drahman knew he had some work to do if he was going to make his goal of making the majors. He just needed to get hitters out, he told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"They obviously think something of me or they wouldn't have protected me on the 40-man roster," Drahman told The Sun-Sentinel that February. "The opportunity is there and I'm ready to go. I also know my dad will be watching and that's important to me. This is really for him."

It was for his father because his father passed away seven years earlier from a heart attack. It was then that Drahman promised he'd make it to the majors.

In April 1991, at the age of 24, Drahman made it, called up to the White Sox in Chicago.

"You wonder, if he'd been here, what it would've been like," Drahman told The Chicago Tribune after he got called up. "He might still be watching anyway, but you'd like to have him here."

Drahman's journey as a pro to that moment began in 1986, taken by the Brewers in the second round of the June secondary draft, out of Miami-Dade South Community College.

With the Brewers, Drahman started at rookie Helena, starting 10 games. For his second season, at single-A Beloit, Drahman moved to relief and closer duties, saving 18 games there.

He got his first look at AA in 1989, then was traded to the White Sox for Jerry Reuss. He got his first extended look at AA in 1990, at Birmingham. He played the season there, picking up 17 saves.

It was in 1991 that Drahman made Chicago. He also made it for 28 total outings, 30.2 innings of work. He posted a 3.23 ERA and picked up three wins.

The next spring, Drahman was again seeking a roster spot and he was hopeful, according to The Sun-Sentinel.

"I didn't have a stellar season," Drahman told The Sun-Sentinel of 1991, "but I did prove I can pitch at the major-league level and that was important."

Drahman did make Chicago in 1992, but he got into just five games. He played the rest of the year at AAA Vancouver, saving 30 games.

Drahman then went on to make the majors in each of the next two seasons, five games with the White Sox and nine games with the Marlins in 1994, rounding out his major league career.

Drahman continued playing in the minors through 1997, then is credited with returning for two seasons in independent ball and in Mexico in 2000 and 2001.

Drahman has since gone on to a career as a coach and manager in the minors and in independent ball. he has served as pitching coach the last five seasons at rookie Great Falls, continuing in 2013.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Matt Stark, Positive Attitude - 4

Originally published June 11, 2012
Coming off rotator cuff surgery, Matt Stark knew he'd be back to old form, he told The Associated Press in spring 1989, in camp with the Braves.

In fact, he was certain of it - once he was 100 percent, he knew he'd be a longtime catcher with some team, Stark added to The AP.

"You have to have a positive attitude, have confidence," Stark explained to The AP. "I'm a go-get 'em type guy."

By that point, the former first-round pick for the Blue Jays had five total major league games behind him, two years earlier with Toronto.

Despite his confidence, Stark wouldn't make the Braves that year. He made the majors again, in 1990, but for only eight final games with the White Sox in Chicago.

Stark did end up being a longtime player though - in Mexico. He went on to play much of the 1990s there, last recorded on the field in 1999.

Stark's career began in 1983, as the Blue Jays' top pick, taken out of Los Altos High School in California.

Stark started at rookie Medicine Hat, hitting .282 in six games. He moved to single-A Florence in 1984, then saw his first brief time at AA Knoxville in 1985.

Stark played all of 1986 at Knoxville, hitting .295 in 120 games. In 1987, he started of the year with the big club in Toronto.

He debuted going 1 for 3 against Cleveland. Five base runners, though, successfully stole on the catcher Stark. Stark told UPI that he didn't catch the runners, but he also called a good game and didn't let any balls get past him. The Blue Jays also won the game.

"But watch out," Stark told UPI. "As soon as I get that first runner out, I won't be stopped."

Stark got his first runner out two days later, gunning down Boston's Dwight Evans. It ended up being the only runner Stark threw out. Stark stayed with the Blue Jays through mid-month, getting into five games. He also got just that one hit.

Stark's time in the minors was then limited to 25 games by that rotator cuff surgery. He played 1988 back at Knoxville again, getting into 97 games and hitting .266.

For 1989, Stark landed with the Braves, taken in the rule 5 draft. His early confidence, though, ended with his release before the spring was out. He isn't recorded as playing anywhere else that year.

For 1990, though, Stark signed with the White Sox, playing the year at AA Birmingham. He made it back to the majors in September, getting into eight games as a pinch-hitter and DH. He went 4 for 16, with one of his hits a two-run double.

Stark played one more full year in affiliated ball, at AAA Vancouver. His last affiliated time came in 1992, with 16 games at AA Midland. Stark then started his career in the Mexican League, with Veracruz and Mexico City.

Stark continued playing in Mexico through 1999, stopping along the way to play at independent St. Paul in 1994 and 1995, and at independent Bridgeport in 1999.

Stark has since gone on to be a coach and a scout. Most recently, Stark served as manager for the independent McAllen Thunder in 2011.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Derek Lee, Going Up North - 10

Originally published June 3, 2010
In spring training 1992 for the White Sox, Derek Lee knew he wasn't going to make the team. But he wanted to make the best impression he could. He wanted them to remember him later.

"I know who's going to go up north," Lee told the Chicago Tribune, referring to the team's AAA club in Vancouver. "The White Sox in '92 are going to be a good team. They're going to win. I want to be a part of that, one way or another."

Lee wouldn't make the team that year, but he would make the majors briefly the next after a change in organizations.

Lee was taken by the White Sox in the late rounds of the 1988 draft, the 42nd round, out of the University of South Florida. He had once been more sought after. (He, of course, is not to be confused with the current player with the similar name, the Cubs' Derrek Lee.)

The Phillies took him as the 17th pick overall in the 1986 June secondary draft, but he didn't sign. It was a loss of power that caused the drop, according to the St. Petersburg Times in a Google News Archive search.

Lee never did show much power in the minors. He hit 11 home runs at single-A South Bend in 1989. Hit seven home runs at AA Birmingham in 1990, one of those coming as an insurance run in a 2-0 May win.

For 1989, the Chicago Tribune pegged him as a sleeper in the White Sox system, calling him a speedy leadoff hitter.

But his batting averages were consistently good. He hit .341 at short-season Utica and .305 between AA Birmingham and Vancouver in 1991.

By 1993, Lee was drafted away from the White Sox by the Twins. That spring, Lee homered, doubled and drove in three runs in a Twins victory, according to a wire account in the Schenectady Gazette.

"I've had a lot of at-bats this spring," Lee told reporters afterward. "I feel fairly comfortable out there."

Lee was sent back down, but the Twins did remember him. They brought him up in June. In 15 games that June and July, Lee had 33 at bats, scored three runs and batted in four. He also had a batting average of just .152.

He had a pinch-hit double July 21 to knock in one of those four. An earlier single on June 29 knocked in another.

Sent back down, Lee would go on to play with six more organizations through 1998, all at AAA, never getting back to the majors.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Matt Merullo, Own Path - 3

Read the July 2013 Matt Merullo interview: Matt Merullo, What Fun

Matt Merullo made the call. It was one he'd made many times before. His team, the Arizona Diamondbacks had just taken one of the players he'd scouted in the 13th round, this past June.

The call was to inform the pick, New Hampshire's Kevin Ziomek, that he'd been drafted.

"Kevin's got that look," Merullo told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. "He's got that look like he knows what he's doing and I can see him having a long, successful career in the big leagues. Each player has his own path of getting there."

Merullo took his own path to the majors more than 20 years earlier, making the majors with the White Sox in a career that spanned six major league seasons and led to his current career as a scout.

It was in 1986 that Merullo received a similar call, when he was taken in the seventh round of the 1986 draft by the White Sox. He started his career at class-A Peninsula. He made AA Birmingham in 1987, promoted ahead of the Florida State League All-Star game he'd won a spot in playing for Daytona Beach.

But by spring 1989, Merullo was being talked about for the major league roster, as the back up for Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Merullo had the bat, but his opposition, Ron Karkovice, had the glove, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Karkovice won out, but then Fisk broke his hand and Merullo got the call.

"I really don't know what their expectations are," Merullo told The Tribune at the outset. "It hasn't really sunk in yet that I'm here."

He was up for two months, but the bat he'd shown earlier didn't show up. He hit just .222 in 31 games. After his stint in Chicago, it was back to AA for Merullo. He was there again for 1990.

It wasn't until 1991 that Merullo got a shot at the majors again. That year, he played the most he'd ever play, 80 games for the White Sox. He hit .229 with five home runs. One of those home runs came on the final day of the year. Another came back in May to tie a game. He hit it with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning.

"I had a ton of family and friends in the stands," Merullo told the Associated Press. "It's great to have something like this happen in front of them. It'll stay with me the rest of my life."

Merullo's playing time declined into 1992 and through 1994. He played 24 games in 1992 and just eight in 1993. Traded to the Indians for 1994, Merullo played in only four games.

In 1995, in what would be his final year in the majors, Merullo played in 76 games for the Twins. In one of those games, in September, he helped beat his old team the White Sox with a ninth-inning single.

One more year in the minors and Merullo was was done. After a brief time out of baseball, Merullo got back in, writing letters to all the teams. The Diamondbacks were the only ones to give him an interview, according to The Enterprise Newspapers.

Merullo made the majors after his father Boots Merullo played minor league ball and grandfather Lennie Merullo played major league ball. His grandfather was also a scout.

Now, Matt Merullo's son is looking to make a run at the majors, and turn the heads of scouts, according to MaxPreps.com.

"As a father I’m old fashioned," Matt Merullo told MaxPreps. "I’m not whipping out money for him to be on a special (travel) team. I’m really proud of him. He’s been through a lot. He hasn’t had anything handed to him.”

Read the July 2013 Matt Merullo interview: Matt Merullo, What Fun

Monday, June 10, 2019

Will Magallanes, From Injury - 11

Originally published May 30, 2013
Single-A Daytona Beach didn't play well to start 1987 and Daytona owner Blake Cullen looked to returning prospect Will Magallanes to get the offense going, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

"We've lost 26 1-run games," Cullen told The Sentinel that July after Magallanes had a hot start. "You just know a player like that could have turned a bunch of those around."

Magallanes was in his third professional season that year with the White Sox, coming back from an injury to his ankle suffered that spring.

Magallanes ultimately would play in six seasons in the White Sox organization, never seeing Chicago. His stint with the club would also end in an ugly incident where Magallanes intentionally caused an injury to a teammate, using a bat to do so.

Magallanes' career began in 1985, signed by the White Sox as an undrafted free agent out of his native Venezuela. Magallanes has also been called Willie Magallanes and the more formal William Magallanes.

With the White Sox, Magallanes started in the rookie Gulf Coast League, hitting .208 in 30 games. He then played 1986 between single-A Appleton and single-A Peninsula, hitting .242 between them.

Returning for 1987, Magallanes played the season at Daytona, getting into 69 games, hitting 11 home runs over that span. Magallanes had nine of those home runs by early August.

For 1988, Magallanes moved up to AA Birmingham, playing the year there. He hit just .193, with nine home runs. He knocked in the winning run in a May game with a ninth-inning single. He then hit one of his home runs in a July game at Charlotte.

Magallanes then took a step back for 1989, to single-A Sarasota. His average recovered, though, to .295. He then returned to Birmingham for 1990, hitting a solid .292 on the season. But it was his final year with the White Sox, the bat incident at year's end likely having something to do with that.

It was on the Birmingham bus that Magallanes got into a fight with teammate Todd Trafton, according to The Associated Press. Once off the bus, Magallanes ended the fight, picking up a bat and hitting Trafton in the back of the head, resulting in Trafton getting 12 stitches.

"The doctor told me that an inch higher or an inch lower and I might not be walking now," Trafton told The AP afterward. "I'm fine, but I have an awful headache."

Magallanes apparently was never charged. But his career in the White Sox organization was over.
 
He caught on with the Cardinals for 1991, getting 41 games at AAA Louisville. In 1992, he is credited as playing in Mexico, then 1993, seven games at AA Orlando. His last credited time came in 1995, with Tabasco of the Mexican League.

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