Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Kevin Baez, Showed Guts - 16

Kevin Baez had just been called back to the majors in April 1992 when the Mets' regular shortstop went down, The New York Times wrote.

Baez then found himself in the middle of the game-saving double-play - and hurt his own finger in the process, getting blood on the incoming runner's helmet, The Times wrote.

"He showed me guts," Mets' second baseman Willie Randolph told The Times of Baez.

Baez showed guts enough to make the majors over three seasons, for 63 total appearances. He's gone on to a career as a manager in independent ball.

Baez' career in baseball began in 1988, taken by the Mets in the seventh round of the draft out of Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY.

Baez started with the Mets at short-season Little Falls. He hit .266 in 70 games. He moved to single-A Columbia in 199, then AA Jackson in 1990.

Baez hit .233 at Jackson, but still got a call up directly to Flushing that September. He saw five games and went 2 for 12.

Baez returned to the minors in 1991 at AAA Tidewater. He saw 65 games and hit .171. He then saw the Mets again that year in 1992. He got into six games and went 2 for 13. He got picked off first as a pinch-runner in another April game.

Baez saw the most time in his major league career in 1993. He got into 52 games and hit .183. He also drove in seven.

Baez continued playing in the minors for much of the next decade, without returning to the majors. He went through the systems of the Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Reds and Mets.

In 2002, he got his first look at independent ball with the Long Island Ducks. He played with Long Island over four seasons. He saw his final time in 2005.

He then turned to coaching with the same Long Island squad. In 2010, the team made him manager.

"As we head into our 12th season, we are excited to have Kevin lead our team," Ducks owner Frank Boulton said in a statement, according to Newsday. "He brings a wealth of experience as a player and a coach, and I am certain he will enjoy great success at the helm."

For 2019, Baez is serving as manager at independent Rockland.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,149
Made the Majors:1,143-36.3%-X
Never Made Majors:2,006-63.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283

Bo Kennedy, Not Here - 20

Originally published Sept. 16, 2012
Bo Kennedy first made AA Birmingham in 1990, his fifth season as a pro. He made it there after a season where he posted an ERA barely over 3 at single-A Sarasota.

That compared to an ERA that first year at Birmingham of 4.73.

"If you make a mistake in Double A, the hitters are going to capitalize on it," Kennedy explained to author George Gmelch in Gmelch's 2001 book "Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball." "If it's 2-0 and you throw one down the middle, they are going to hit it hard somewhere. Down in A ball you might get away with it, but not here. Not often."

Kennedy did make the adjustment to AA, the next year, then earning a promotion in the White Sox organization to AAA Vancouver. Kennedy, though, never had a chance to adjust to pitching the next step above that, in the majors.

Kennedy's career began in 1986, taken by the White Sox in the sixth round out of Flat River Central High School in Missouri.

Kennedy played that first year in the rookie Gulf Coast League, going 0-4 in seven starts. He returned to the Gulf Coast League for 1987, but also got 15 games, five starts, at single-A Peninsula.

His first full season at single-A came in 1988. At South Bend, Kennedy went 10-8, with a 3.48 ERA, in 27 starts.

After spending 1989 at single-A Sarasota, posting a 14-7 record, with a 3.01 ERA, Kennedy spent his first of four seasons with time at AA in 1990.

At Birmingham in 1991, Kennedy went 10-3, dropping his ERA to just 2.32 in 15 starts. He also made the Southern League All-Star team in July, but he couldn't play. That's because he got called up to AAA Vancouver, The Chicago Tribune wrote.

Kennedy got 17 outings, five starts, at Vancouver that year. His ERA in those outings was 7.85.

Kennedy played just two more seasons in the minors, one with the White Sox largely back at AA Birmingham, and the second with the Reds. With the Reds, Kennedy played much of the season at AAA Indianapolis, but he never saw Cincinnati.

Kennedy returned for one more spring, spring 1995, ending his career short of the majors.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mike Gellinger, Great Stuff - 24

Originally published June 10, 2013
White Sox hurler Mark Buehrle had a rough stretch in 2010, giving up 18 runs in 22.1 innings of work, according to MLB.com.

But was he tipping his pitches? Buehrle pointed to team video analyst and assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger for that answer.

"I'm not going to make excuses saying they're tipping pitches and that's why I've been getting hit around," Buehrle told MLB.com. "Mike Gellinger does a great job of watching us and watching hitters to see if we're doing something out of the ordinary."

Whether Buehrle was tipping his pitches then or not, Gellinger was credited with spotting him doing just that four years earlier. Gellinger spotted him mid-game, according to MLB.com in 2006, allowing Buehrle to correct his motion and get the victory.

Gellinger helped Buehrle as part of a baseball career that stretches back to 1986, when he signed with the Tigers as a player.

Gellinger's stay in the Detroit system lasted a single season. He moved to the White Sox for 1987, playing the year between Peninsula and Daytona Beach. He hit .283 over 86 games that season, his last as a player.

His playing career over, Gellinger moved into coaching. He coached in 1988 at single-A Tampa, the managed at short-season Utica in 1989. 

In 1994, Gellinger managed at single-A South Bend, spending the previous season as the organization's minor league defensive instructor. In spring 1994, Gellinger watched over a White Sox minor leaguer by the name of Michael Jordan. That February, he watched Jordan hit a batting practice home run.

"He put a pretty good swing on it," Gellinger told The Associated Press afterward.

By 1996, Gellinger was a roving minor league instructor for the White Sox. Then, by 1999, he was a scouting analyst. Soon, he was also the White Sox assistant hitting coach.

In 2011, White Sox hitter Paul Konerko credited Gellinger, along with hitting coach Greg Walker, with helping him with his hitting, according to USAToday.

Earlier in 2011, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had nothing but good things to say to The Arlington Heights Daily Herald about Gellinger.

"I love him," Guillen told the Daily Herald. "I love him so much that if Joey (Cora) got the managing job (with Milwaukee last winter), Gelly was going to be my new bench coach. That's how good he is, that's how much I trust him. He's done a lot of great stuff for the White Sox."

Monday, June 24, 2019

Javier Gonzalez, Big Day - 13

Javier Gonzalez had a big day in this August 1993 game and his team got the win, according to The Associated Press.

Gonzalez knocked in three, two of them on a home run, as Binghamton went on to take the victory, 7-6, The AP wrote.

Gonzelez hit that home run in his eighth season as a pro. He went on to play in two more campaigns. He made AAA, but he never made the majors.

Gonzalez' career began in 1986, signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent out of his native Puerto Rico.

Gonzalez started with the Mets at rookie Kingsport. The catcher got into 25 games and hit .291,  along with five home runs.

He moved to short-season Little Falls for 1987. He went 1 for 5, with a home run and three RBI in an August contest. Overall, he hit .262 in 40 games.

Gonzalez played 1988 at single-A Columbia, then 1989 at single-A St. Lucie. He hit .246 in St. Lucie.

Gonzalez made AA Jackson for 1990. He saw 45 games and hit .175. He threw seven base runners out in 17 tries by early June.

Gonzalez made AAA Tidewater for a game in 1991, then another 39 games in 1992. He hit .208 there in 1992. 

Going into 1993, Gonzalez stayed with the big club in spring training until March 21, when he was sent to minor league camp. He started the year at Binghamton, where he hit a home run in an April game. 

Gonzalez played at AAA Norfolk for 17 games in 1994, his last with the Mets. He then saw 30 games with AA New Britain in the Red Sox system that year and 43 at AAA New Orleans in the Brewers system for 1995 to end his career.

Gonzalez soon started a brief career as a coach. He coached at rookie Helena in 1997 and is last credited as coaching at high-A Salem in 2001.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,148
Made the Majors:1,142-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,006-63.7%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283-X

John Hudek, Exceeded Goal - 19

Originally published Nov. 9, 2011
It definitely wasn't what John Hudek had planned, he told The Beaver County Times.

But, there he was in Pittsburgh, a 1994 National League All Star, having only made his major league debut April 23.

"I'm really still in a fog," Hudek told The Times. "My goal this year was simply to make the big leagues."

Hudek got to the big leagues and more. He became the Astros' closer, recording 15 saves before the break, with a sub-2 ERA. He also ended up in the strike-shortened year second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Hudek, though, went on to play in just five more seasons, loosing time in his second and third years to injury. He also never again was an All Star.

Hudek's professional career began in 1988, taken by the White Sox in the 10th round of the draft, out of Florida Southern College.

He played that first year at single-A South Bend, going 7-2, with a 1.98 ERA in 26 relief appearances. Hudek moved to single-A Sarasota and AA Birmingham in 1989, getting 26 saves between them. He stayed at Birmingham, though, into 1992.

In 1992, Hudek got his first look at AAA, at Vancouver. He had a 3.19 ERA in 39 outings there. Hudek did well enough that year for the Tigers to take interest, selecting Hudek in the minor league draft. He didn't make Detroit.

Then, in July, the team that would bring him to the majors, the Astros, took him off waivers. Hudek played the rest of 1993 at AAA Tucson, then started 1994 there. He then made Houston.

And he made the All-Star team. It was National League manager Jim Fregosi who selected Hudek.

"He probably throws as hard as any closer in the league, Fregosi told The Toledo Blade leading up to the game. "He's done a heck of a job for Houston."

Hudek finished the shortened year with 16 saves, a 2.97 ERA and a distant second in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

Hudek returned to the Astros for 1995, but he only got into 19 games before a circulation problem in his throwing arm led to surgery to remove a rib. It also led to him being out the rest of the year.

The removed rib ended up on a necklace that Hudek wore to spring training in 1996. Hudek, though, soon tore a muscle in his neck, and was out again until July. He ended up getting into 15 games.

Hudek returned full time for 1997, getting into 40 games for the Astros, picking up four saves. His ERA, though, ballooned to 5.98.

For 1998, Hudek was traded to the Mets, moving mid-year to the Reds. Overall, he got 58 outings and posted a 3.09 ERA. He played just one more season, 20 games between the Reds, Braves and Blue Jays, ending his career.

After signing with the Mets for spring 1998, Hudek told The New York Times he had fully recovered from his injuries of 1995 and 1996. The NY Times also asked his thoughts on his early success and his career detour through injury.

"I'm not sure where I'd be if I didn't get hurt," Hudek told The NY Times. "Would I still be a top closer with the Astros? In my mind, I think I would. But the game can end at any time, and I saw that. It really made me appreciate the game even more. The way I look at it is that I've had two years off, and my career's going to be that much longer."

Hudek has since returned to his native Texas, and continued with the game. Hudek serves as a pitching coach with the select youth baseball association the Fort Bend Texans.

Hudek told The Galveston Daily News the organization works to improve the young players' skills.

"The feedback we get from high school coaches is that the kids don’t know the fundamentals," Hudek told The Daily News. "They don’t have time to teach it. So if the kid doesn’t know it, then it’s going to hurt them in the long run. We’re here to develop these kids. We concentrate on development."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Roberto Hernandez, Will to Compete - 18

Originally published April 21, 2011
Roberto Hernandez made his major league debut in September 1991 knowing that debut was close to never happening, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier that season, Hernandez underwent surgery for blood clots in his pitching arm. Talk was, The AP wrote, he'd never pitch again.

"I have a strong will to compete," Hernandez told The AP after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first major league appearance. "I've been through a lot, so I take nothing for granted."

Hernandez not only made the majors for that first game, the pitcher would go on to stay in the majors for 1,009 more.

Hernandez the starter would also quickly give way to Hernandez the reliever, and Hernandez the closer. By the time Hernandez' career ended 16 seasons later, he'd notched himself a total of 326 saves and a career ERA of 3.45.

Hernandez' professional career began in 1986, selected by the Angels in the first round of the draft. He pitched in the Angels system into 1989, when the Angels traded him to the White Sox.

After his call-up to Chicago, White Sox minor-league pitching coordinator Dewey Robinson told The Chicago Tribune of the work they did with Hernandez.

"We changed a lot of things with him," Robinson told The Tribune. "He came in a big hard thrower with a big sloppy curveball. We took the curveball away from him and taught him the slider, and that really helped."

Taken under the wing of White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen, Hernandez got his first 12 saves in 1992. By 1993, Hernandez was the White Sox closer, saving 38 games. He then topped 30 saves three out of the next four seasons.

In 1996, Hernandez saved 38 games again, winning All-Star honors. He also nearly ended Cal Ripken's streak. Hernandez lost his balance during the American League team photo shoot, hitting Ripken in the face, breaking his nose.

"I thought I was going to have to get a bodyguard to go to Baltimore," Hernandez told The Chicago Tribune after it became apparent Ripken, and his streak, would be OK.

Traded to the Giants in mid-1997, Hernandez made his second post-season. In his first, in 1993, Hernandez pitched four innings and didn't give up a run. In his second, Hernandez wasn't as lucky. He gave up three runs in three outings against the Marlins, taking a loss.

"Obviously, it's not easy," Hernandez told The Los Angeles Times after his first two outings that fall. "I haven't done my job and everyone knows that."

Signing with the Devil Rays for 1998, Hernandez became that club's first closer. He saved 26 games his first year there and 43 the next. In one late August 1999 game, Hernandez shut down his old team the White Sox, after his teammates had been rough earlier in the game.

"It's nice to have Roberto," Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "That tells you what he means to this team. We did just about everything we could to give it back."

Hernandez continued as a regular closer through 2002, moving on to the Royals in 2001. For his final five seasons, Hernandez played for six teams and picked up six saves between them.

As what would be his final season came to a close in 2007, Hernandez, who'd been with the Dodgers, still thought about coming back for 2008, according to The Riverside Press-Enterprise. He wanted to do more to pass along his knowledge to younger pitchers.

"Bobby Thigpen trained me to take over his role (as White Sox closer)," Hernandez told The Press-Enterprise. "If he can do that for me, why can't I do that for these guys?"

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Edgar Caceres, Almost Anything - 7

Originally published June 1, 2013
Edgar Caceres really wanted that ball, he just had to bargain with the fan who caught it to get it, The Associated Press wrote.

This was Caceres' first major league home run, hit in his first major league season - and after a decade spent in the minors.

"I told him to call me at the hotel and I'd see what I could do," Caceres told The AP afterward of the fan's demands. "I would give almost anything to get that ball back. But he did ask for a lot."

Caceres hit that first home run Aug. 4, in his 28th major league game. He went on to play in 55 games that year for the Royals. That home run would be his only one on the year, and the only one of his brief major league career.

Caceres' career began in 1983, signed by the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent out of his native Venezuela.

With the Dodgers, Caceres first played in 1984, in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He returned there for 1985, then moved to the Expos system and single-A West Palm Beach for 1986. He went 4-for-4 in one August 1986 contest.

He returned to Palm Beach in 1987, getting his first brief look at AA Jacksonville. In a May game, Caceres went 4-for-5 for Palm Beach, crossing the plate with the winning run in the ninth.

Caceres moved to the White Sox system in mid-1988, after a trade. With the White Sox, Caceres stayed in single-A until 1990, when he played 62 games at AA Birmingham, hitting .262.

For 1991, Caceres is listed as being out of baseball. But he returned in 1992, with the Brewers. With them, he played at AA El Paso, then hit AAA New Orleans in 1993. For 1994, Caceres signed with the team that would eventually bring him to the bigs, the Royals.

He played 1994 at AAA Omaha, then returned there to start 1995. It was in June, at the age of 31, that Caceres debuted in the majors. In 55 games with the Royals, Caceres picked up 26 hits, 17 RBIs and that one home run.

Caceres played four more seasons in pro ball, but never made it back to the bigs. He played 1996 and 1997 at AAA with the Brewers and the Angels, then 1998 and 1999 in Korea, ending his playing career.

Caceres has since gone to continue in baseball, as a manager in the minors, and as an instructor. He spent five seasons managing in the Reds organization, then another with the Nationals. Since 2008, he has been an instructor with the IMG Academy in Florida, continuing in 2013.

With the Reds, Caceres managed three seasons in the rookie Gulf Coast League, from 2001 to 2003. Years later, he recalled to The Chatham Daily News life managing in rookie ball.

"Managing that level, you never think, 'This guy is going to be an MVP or a franchise player some day,'" Caceres told The Daily News. "What you think about is baby steps. Baby steps."

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