Monday, July 25, 2016

Jeff Fassero, That Long - 19

Originally published March 26, 2014
With one out to go and a no-hitter at stake, the ball came right back at Expos hurler Jeff Fassero. It also glanced off his glove for a hit.

While he didn't get the no-hitter, Fassero told The Associated Press afterward he got something else from the outing.

"It was the time of my life," Fassero told The AP. "Any time you work that long without giving up a hit, it's great. That's something I might not ever do again. I've got to live with it."

Fassero ultimately played in 12 more major league seasons, for 16 in all. He served as both a starter and as a reliever. He got into 720 total games, starting 242 of those. He never got as close to a no-hitter again.

Fassero's career began back in 1984, taken by the Cardinals in the 22nd round of the draft out of the University of Mississippi.

He started at rookie Johnson City, made AA Arkansas in 1987, then AAA Louisville in 1989. He signed for 1990 with the Indians, playing at AA Canton-Akron. For 1991, he signed with the Expos.

In May 1991, his eighth professional season, Fassero made Montreal. He also never looked back. In his first season, as as reliever, he got into 51 games and posted a 2.44 ERA. In his second season, he got into 70, with a 2.84 ERA.

He tried his hand at starting in 1993, getting 56 outings, 15 starts. He went 12-5, with a 2.29 ERA. He became a starter mid-season because the Expos simply needed starters. In September, he went eight and struck out a career-high 11 in defeating the Braves, according to The Philadelphia Daily News.

"That was no accident that he had a career high in strikeouts tonight," Expos manager Felipe Alou told The Daily News. "He was pumped up and he threw his best . . . When he got Ron Gant out I knew it was going to be a special night because Gant is hot, and because he likes lefties."
 
Fassero continued as a major league starter for the next seven seasons. From 1995 to 1998, Fassero started at least 30 games each season. He also won at least 13 games in four of those seasons.

In 1996, his final season with the Expos, Fassero went 15-11, with a 3.30 ERA. He also struck out a career-high 222. He followed that up with a 16-9 campaign with the Mariners in 1997, with a 3.61 ERA.

Fassero stayed with the Mariners into 1999. He signed with the Red Sox for 2000. In 2001, with the Cubs, Fassero returned to relieving. He also got into a total of 82 games, posting an ERA of 3.82 and saving 12 games.

In August, he helped preserve a Cubs win by working an inning while giving up one hit and setting the other three batters down on strikes, according to The Chicago Tribune.

"The biggest thing was getting ahead of the hitters," Fassero told The Tribune. "That enabled me to throw all three of my pitches: slider, fastball, forkball."

Fassero continued pitching, largely as a reliever, into 2006. He finished out his career with the Cardinals, Rockies, Diamondbacks and the Giants. He threw his last major league pitch at the age of 43.

"You're never going to be satisfied. I can live with it," Fassero told The AP upon retiring in February 2007. "I got to do what I wanted to do growing up for 20 years, counting minor leagues and big leagues."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Al Osuna, Established Himself - 1344

A trip to the 1987 College World Series championship game on the line and down by three quickly, Stanford couldn't wait. So, in came relief pitcher Al Osuna - with one out in the first.

Osuna came through. He pitched  8.2 innings in relief and didn't allow another run, according to The Omaha World-Herald.

"I just wanted to get the first guy out to establish myself," Osuna told The World-Herald afterward. "I didn't want them to score any more runs. I wanted to turn the faucet off right there."

Osuna established himself in that game and he soon established himself in the pros. Starting with the Astros at short-season Auburn that year, Osuna made his way to Houston by the end of 1990. By the time his career was over, he'd seen time in six different major league seasons, getting into 218 total games.

Osuna's career began that year in 1987, taken by the Astros in the 16th round of the draft out of Stanford.

Osuna started with the Astros at Auburn and single-A Asheville. In 22 total relief outings, he posted a 4.08 ERA. He first made AA Columbus in 1990, after two full seasons at single-A. In September 1990, he made the jump to Houston.

He got into 12 games down the stretch for the Astros in 1990. He gave up six earned in 11.1 innings of work.

Osuna returned for 1991 and became a regular. The reliever got into 71 games, saved 12 of them and had a 3.42 ERA. In August, he pitched two innings without giving up a hit, getting the win. He also struck out the Dodgers' Darryl Strawberry, according to UPI.

"When we played L.A. back in May, and I struck him (Strawberry) out, my father told me that he said (in the paper) I didn't throw him anything he couldn't handle," Osuna told UPI afterward. "So every time I face him, he's going to see everything I've got."

Osuna picked up another 66 games for the Astros in 1992. He went 6-3 in middle relief, with a 4.23 ERA. He got into 44 games in 1993, with a 3.20 ERA.

In May 1993, Osuna got Dave Magadan of the Marlins to pop out with the bases loaded in a close game.

"I was a little surprised he went after the first pitch," Osuna told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "and I think the ball moved in on him a little bit."

Osuna moved to the Dodgers for 1994, getting into 15 games. He played 1995 at AAA and briefly in independent ball before returning to he majors one last time with the Padres in 1996. He got into 10 games there, with a 2.25 ERA, ending his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,395
Made the Majors: 983-41.0%-X
Never Made Majors:1,412-59.0%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 409-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:247

Jim Bruske, Home Debut - 18

Originally published April 24, 2014
Newly minted Los Angeles Dodger Jim Bruske's first two major league appearances came on the road.

To The Los Angeles Times, Bruske looked forward to his home debut - at Dodger Stadium.

"I've always watched games here from a fan's standpoint," Bruske told The Times. "The first time I get out there I'm going to pause, look around and enjoy the moment."

Bruske enjoyed the moment that year and in four more major league seasons. His final big league season came in 2000, after a season lost to Tommy John surgery.

Bruske also first made the majors in what was his 10th professional season. In his first three pro seasons, Bruske wasn't even a pitcher. He was an outfielder.

Bruske's career began in 1986, taken by the Indians in the first round of the June secondary draft out of Loyola Marymount University in California.

Bruske helped lead Loyola Marymount to the College World Series, his bat leading the way. With that, the Indians kept him in the outfield, according to The Times. Then, for 1990, the Indians switched him to pitcher.

"Basically I started from the beginning (as a pitcher)," Bruske told The Times in August. "Mechanics-wise, I was not even close to what I should have been. The pitching coach there, Will George, really helped me a lot. And he still is."

Bruske first made AAA in 1991. He then moved to the Astros system in mid-1992 then, finally, to the Dodgers system for 1995.

Bruske debuted with the Dodgers Aug. 25, 1995. In nine outings that year, Bruske gave up five earned in 10 innings. He returned to the Dodgers for another 11 outings in 1996 then moved to the Padres for 1997.

With the Padres, Bruske got his first four major league wins. He also got his first hit, a double, in his first at bat.

In 1998, Bruske split time between the Padres, Dodgers and Yankees. He got into a total of 42 games between the three teams, with a 3.45 ERA.

Bruske then underwent Tommy John surgery. He then returned for 2000 with the Brewers. He then got Milwaukee's first victory of the year. In that game, Bruske got a key out by getting Ken Griffey Jr. to ground into a fielder's choice, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote.

"You can't let him beat you there," Bruske told The Journal Sentinel. " I wanted to make him hit my pitch. It was a sinker away."

Bruske finished with 15 outings and a 6.48 ERA. He played one more season in the minors, ending his career.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Robbie Wine, Lucky Enough - 17

Originally published April 22, 2014
Robbie Wine ended up getting a full game's worth of action in this September 1986 game for the Astros and he wasn't even put in until the 10th inning.

This was also his major league debut.

"I didn't have time to think and get nervous or tired," Wine told The Norristown Times Herald years later. "I just played and had a good game."

Wine's game's worth of action came as the game didn't end until the next day, and the 18th inning. While that game seemingly never ended, Wine's major league career ended comparatively quickly. Wine saw action in a total of only 23 games played that year and the next.

His playing career over, Wine has gone on to a long career as a coach, including nine seasons spent as head coach at Penn State University.

Wine's career began in 1983, taken by the Astros in the first round, eighth overall, out of Oklahoma State University.

At Oklahoma State, Wine played well enough to earn The Sporting News' Player of the Year honors, along with First Team All-America.

With the Astros, Wine started at short-season Auburn, hitting .242 over 53 games. He moved to single-A Daytona Beach for 1984, then AA Columbus in 1985. In 1986, he made AAA Tucson. He also made Houston.

Called up that September in 1986, Wine went 1 for 3 in his debut. His first major league hit came in the 13th inning. The first base runner he caught stealing came the inning before, Ryne Sandberg.

In nine games with the Astros that September, Wine picked up three hits in 12 at bats. He returned for 14 more major league games the next season, getting three more hits but in 29 at bats.

Wine followed his father, Bobby Wine, to the majors. His father played 12 seasons in the bigs.

"Growing up watching my dad and being around those big leaguers all those years, I dreamed and believed I'd play in the big leagues," Robbie Wine told The Wilmington Star-News in 2005, "and I was lucky enough to get there."

Wine's final big league game came Oct. 3, 1987. He played three more professional seasons, but he never returned to the majors. He played those final three seasons with five different organizations. His final time came in 1990 with the Indians at AA Canton-Akron.

Wine then started his coaching career. He served as a coach for single-A Miami in 1991. From 1993 to 1996, he spent with the Brewers as a coach and instructor.

He returned to Oklahoma State in 1997 as assistant coach, staying there through 2004. For 2005, he moved to Penn State, taking the head coaching job.

In April 2012, Wine watched as one of his pitchers, Steven Hill, threw a no-hitter.

"When you are in the game, you don't really think about it," Wine told GoPSUSports.com afterward. "And still it really hasn't sunk in yet. But for Steve Hill to go out there and do that for the team in such a crucial game, it's huge. For the season it means a lot and for him he'll remember that forever. It's just a fun event and once again, it reinforces why you coach."

Wine left Penn State in June 2013, landing back in the minors. For 2014, Wine served as manager at short-season Eugene with the Padres.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Francisco Melendez, Biggest Thing - 16

Originally published April 19, 2014
Francisco Melendez started off 1989 slow for the AAA Rochester Red Wings, something that was uncharacteristic of him in his nine seasons as a pro, The Newport News Daily Press wrote.

By July, though, he'd picked up the pace. He also helped Rochester beat Norfolk by picking up three hits, The Daily News wrote.

"He's comfortable at the plate," Rochester manager Greg Biagini told The Daily News afterward. "That's the biggest thing with him. He's always hit no matter where he's been, so we knew he'd hit for us."

Melendez hit previously in four major league seasons, getting time in 65 games for the Phillies and the Giants. Later in 1989, he'd hit his way back to the bigs for nine games with the Orioles, the final nine games of his big league career.

Melendez' career began in 1981, signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent out of his native Puerto Rico.

Melendez started with the Phillies at single-A Spartanburg and single-A Peninsula. He hit .242 between them, with three home runs. He remained at Peninsula for 1982, his average increasing to .292.

He made AA Reading for 1983, then AAA Portland in 1984. He hit .298 at Reading and .312 at Portland. Melendez also earned a call up to Philadelphia in August 1984. In 23 at bats there, though, he picked up only three hits.

After spending another season back at Portland, Melendez returned to the Phillies for nine games in 1986. He moved to the Giants for 1987, getting 12 games in the bigs that year and 23 with San Francisco in 1988.

Between the two seasons with the Giants, Melendez picked up 10 hits in 42 at bats. In his nine games with the Orioles in 1989, Melendez had three hits in 11 at bats.

Melendez returned to the minors for one more season, playing between AA and AAA with the Indians. He's then credited with rounding out his career with four seasons in Mexico.

Melendez eventually returned to Puerto Rico. He also continued in baseball. In 2011, Melendez was the hitting coach for the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School. One of his students: Carlos Correa.

"He always knows how every player is playing on the other team," Melendez told MLB.com of Correa. "That's what makes him different -- the attitude he has about the game, whether it's against a good team or a bad team, a hard-thrower and a bad thrower. He finds a way, because he's so smart and in-tune with everything."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Miguel Sabino, Unremarkable Trade - 15

Originally published Oct. 22, 2010
Miguel Sabino had spent four seasons in the Braves' system by spring 1990, first making it to AA two seasons earlier. He was also coming off a season that had been mostly lost due to injury, a stress fracture of his shins making sure of that, according to a wire report.

After that, the Braves seemed fine to let him go, trading him off to the Indians in a three-player deal. It was also a mostly unremarkable trade. The two others in the deal, Tommy Hinzo to the Braves and Jeff Weatherby to the Indians with Sabino.

Of the three, only Hinzo and Weatherby had already seen time in the majors, albeit brief. Of the three, none would see the majors going forward, including Sabino.

Sabino started with the Braves in 1986, playing 60 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League. Sabino hit .288 on the season with no home runs. He got two hits in a July game, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

He made single-A Sumter in 1987, hitting .251 in 112 games. He also hit two home runs, his first a leadoff shot against Charleston in June.

Sabino also had some speed. In another June game, stole second base in the ninth and scored the game-tying run. He had an infield single in one August, stealing second again, then had three hits in another late August game, getting another stolen base, according to The Sumter Item.

Sabino played much of 1988 at single-A Durham, getting some playing time at AA Greenville. Between the two, he hit just .232 with four home runs.

Then came 1989 and the stress fractures. Sabino played in just 15 games on the year, hitting .220 and stealing five bases.

It was on to the Indians organization for 1990. He spent the season at AA Canton-Akron, getting into 65 games. He hit .270 with 10 stolen bases. He walked and scored on a single in a May game.

He returned to Canton for 1991, playing the full season. He got into 115 games on the year, hitting five home runs and swiping 23 bases. But he hit just .219. But it was his last season. Sabino's career ended, without making it higher than AA.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dean Hartgraves, Long Time - 1343

The Houston Astros readied to open the 1995 campaign and reliever Dean Hartgraves readied to join them.

He readied to join them for the first time - after playing eight full seasons in the minors to get there.

"It just blew me away because I never expected it," Hartgraves told The Tucson Citizen that April. "As long as I have played, there were times when you begin to lose hope that you can play (in the majors). I've played a long time, and this is a dream come true."

Hartgraves went on to play much of that year with the big club in Houston, 40 outings. He also played in parts of two more, getting time with the Braves and the Giants. In all, he'd get into 84 big league games, turning in a big league ERA of 4.41.

Hartgraves' long path to the majors began in 1987, taken by the Astros in the 20th round of the draft out of the College of the Siskiyous in California.

Hartgraves started with the Astros at short-season Auburn. He moved to single-A Asheville for 1988, getting into 34 games, starting 13. In one of those starts, he threw a no-hitter.

"I've never thrown a no-hitter in my life. Not in Little League, Babe Ruth, or high school," Hartgraves told The Asheville Citizen-Times after the feat. "This is just an incredible feeling."

Hartgraves made AA Columbus in 1990, then AAA Tucson for the first time in 1991. His 1991 campaign was the first of six seasons where he'd see time in Arizona.

He started that 1995 campaign at Tucson. He then got his call to Houston. Hartgraves pitched in 40 games for the Astros in relief that year, turning in a 3.22 ERA. That July, future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn got the best of Hartgraves, hitting an inside pitch for an RBI single.

Hartgraves returned for 19 more outings with the Astros in 1996 before being taken off waivers by the Braves in July. He then got into 20 more games. Overall, he posted a 4.78 ERA.

After playing 1997 back at AAA, Hartgraves returned for a final look at the bigs with the Giants in 1998. He got into five games that year. He gave up six earned in 5.2 innings.

Hartgraves played part of one more season as a pro, signing on with Chiba Lotte in Japan. He got into 3 games, starting two, ending his career.

In April 1996, The Citizen asked Hartgraves about his first season in the bigs. He repeated that it was a dream come true.

"It finally paid off," Hartgraves told The Citizen. "It was even sweeter for me being a fringe player and not a prospect expected to make it."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured: 2,394
Made the Majors: 982-41.0%-X
Never Made Majors:1,412-59.0%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 408
10+ Seasons in the Minors:247
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