Thursday, May 24, 2018

Don Buford, Off Running - 3

Originally published April 8, 2013
Don Buford could definitely take off running, according to an assessment by his new manager in 1989.

His problem, though, according to the assessment was the trip back to the dugout generally being a walk, not a sprint.

"The kid can fly . . . he steals a lot of bases," AA Hagerstown manager Jimmie Schaffer told The Allentown Morning Call of Buford, before being described as pausing and adding, "but he strikes out a lot."

Schaffer spoke before Buford's third professional season. Buford's career ultimately wouldn't last much longer, he got just one more year. Buford, though, would take off running in another direction - to medical school, ultimately helping others return to taking off running themselves, and return to other athletic pursuits as an arthroscopic surgeon.

Buford's career began in 1987, signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent out of USC.

USC was the same school his father, former major leaguer Don Buford Sr. went to. It was also the same school Buford's brother Damon Buford went to. Damon Buford, also signed by the Orioles out of college, went on to a nine-season major league career.

For Don Buford Jr., he played his first year at short-season Newark. He also hit well. In 71 games, Buford hit .298 and stole 35 bases. He also struck out 43 times.

He moved to single-A Hagerstown for 1988, but his average dropped to .232. His stolen base total, though, went up to 77. His strike out total, too, to 87.

Buford stayed at Hagerstown for 1989, but moved up to AA with the club. There, his average dropped even further, to .192. In 100 games, he stole just 30 bases and struck out 54 times.

His final year came in 1990, with 50 games back at Hagerstown. Then his career was over. Buford just wasn't enjoying the game anymore, his father told The Baltimore Sun in 1991.

Buford, though, had another calling.

"We discussed it," Don Buford Sr. told The Sun. "We concluded that if he wasn't happy because he wasn't getting hits and wasn't playing much, it would be best to go back to med school. He wants to go into sports medicine."

And Buford did, graduating from the UCLA School of Medicine, according to his bio on The Sports Medicine Clinic of North Texas site. Buford now helps athletes get back on the field, specializing in repairing shoulders and knees through arthroscopic surgery.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mike Cavers, Pitched Great - 5

Originally published April 7, 2013
The Nevada Griffons lost the first game of this July 1986 double header. Helping Griffons come back and win the second game, though, was Mike Cavers, according to The Nevada Daily Mail.

In that second game, The Daily Mail wrote, Cavers helped pitch the team to a 5-1 victory.

"We played very, very well," Griffons manager Chris Smith told The Daily Mail. "It was a great pitched game by Mike Cavers."

Mike Cavers pitched good enough that summer, and the next spring, to earn himself a pro career. Cavers, though, couldn't pitch well enough for a long career. Cavers' career lasted four seasons, making it to AA, but no higher.

Cavers' pro career began in 1987, signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent out of Southwestern.

With the Orioles, Cavers started at rookie Bluefield, getting into 12 games as a reliever, posting a 1.08 ERA. For 1988, Cavers moved up to single-A Erie, getting 18 outings, eight starts, with an ERA of 2.83.

For 1989, Cavers turned full-time starter, going 11-12 between single-A Frederick and AA Hagerstown. In his 28 starts, Cavers' ERA was 3.01.

That year in the Florida Instructional League, Cavers and a teammate became the targets of a practical joke played by teammates David Segui and Ben McDonald, Segui recalled years later to USA Today.

Segui and McDonald took a 6-foot alligator out of a pond, putting it in Cavers and teammate Tony Chance's hotel room tub. Cavers ended up running screaming from the room, according to USA Today.

Cavers came back, but he did so for just one more season. He played the year at Hagerstown, getting 32 outings, 12 starts. He also ended up going 2-10, with a 5.64 ERA, ending his career.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stacey Burdick, Got Outs - 4

Originally published May 22, 2013
Stacey Burdick's performance earned him tournament MVP, pitching 13 innings and giving up no earned runs, according to The St. Petersburg Evening Independent.

He earned that honor while pitching his Pinellas County team to the 1985 National Baseball Congress national tournament at Wichita, according to The Evening Independent.

"A lot of batters were looking for the fastball, and the slider looks like a fastball until it drops off at the last second," Burdick told The Evening Independent. "Mostly, that's how I got people out in Tampa."

Burdick went on to turn pro in 1986, signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent. But, while he worked to get people out for six professional seasons, he never got the chance to do so in the majors.

Burdick signed with the Orioles out of Hillsborough Community College and Pinellas High School in Florida.

With the Orioles, Burdick started at rookie Bluefield, going 4-3 in 12 starts there, with a 6.75 ERA.

Burdick returned to Bluefield for 1987, also getting time at single-A Miami and Hagerstown. He played at Hagerstown all of 1988, getting 22 starts there and going 10-10, with a 3.64 ERA.

He remained in single-A for 1989, playing at Frederick, but it was a brief season, just nine outings. In Burdick's first start that year, he went five innings, giving up three hits and picking up the win.

Burdick first made AA in 1990, his fifth season. In 20 outings, 16 starts, he went 8-9, with a 3.93 ERA. In one stretch that year against Albany-Colonie, Burdick went 14.1 innings, without giving up a run.

Back at Hagerstown in 1991, Burdick picked up 26 outings, 21 starts. He also went 11-4, with a 2.99 ERA. In June, he went seven innings in one outing, giving up just four hits. But it was Burdick's final season as a pro, his career ending after six seasons.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Luis Mercedes, Tough Situation - 16

Originally published April 5, 2013
Luis Mercedes hoped for a return to the majors out of spring training in 1992. What he got was a return to AAA, according to The Baltimore Sun.

"He wouldn't be human if he wasn't disappointed. There's a lot of great things going on here," Mercedes' agent Mike Powers told The Sun after the decision was made. "He was in a tough situation here -- he'll go down and wait his turn."

Mercedes' turn did eventually come again that year, a turn that lasted for 23 games with Baltimore, after 19 he logged the season before. In all, Mercedes' turns got him to the bigs in parts of three seasons, playing with both the Orioles and the Giants.

Mercedes' career began in 1987, signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent out of his native Dominican Republic.

With the Orioles, Mercedes started at rookie Bluefield, hitting .274 in 59 games. He moved to single-A Frederick in 1989 and then AA Hagerstown in 1990.

At Hagerstown, Mercedes hit .334, stealing 38 bases. He also made the Eastern League season-ending All-Star team. For 1991, Mercedes made AAA Rochester. In September, he made Baltimore.

As a September 1991 call up, Mercedes got into 19 games, hitting .204. Returning for 1992, Mercedes got into those 23 games, but hit just .140.

In late-September 1992, Mercedes looked forward to 1993, hoping for a regular spot on the Baltimore roster, or some other major league roster, according to The Sun.

"I never get frustrated because I'm a young man," Mercedes told The Sun. "No matter what they do to me, I have to keep my mind going all the way. No matter if it's here or somewhere else, I'll keep going, and I'll play hard and give 110 percent all the time."

Mercedes started 1993 with Baltimore, getting into 10 games in April, hitting .292. In late-April, though, he was sent to the Giants for Kevin McGehee. With the Giants, Mercedes got into 18 games, hitting .160. They were the last 16 games of his major league career.

After not being recorded as playing in 1994, Mercedes returned for one final season as a pro in 1995. He got 25 games with the Pirates at AAA Calgary, playing the remainder of the year in Mexico, ending his career.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Joel McKeon, Working Forkball - 14

Originally published May 24, 2013
Joel McKeon didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do in spring training 1986, The Chicago Tribune wrote. That's because he hurt his wrist.

At AAA Buffalo in April, though, McKeon showed exactly what he could do. He also earned his first call up to the majors.

"I had my forkball working," the new White Sox pitcher McKeon told The Tribune of his time at Buffalo. "Hopefully, it will stay."

For McKeon, his forkball and other pitchers ended up working well enough to keep him up in Chicago into July, until illness cut his season short. His pitches also worked well enough to get him back to Chicago the next year. In a pro career that continued another four seasons, though, he wouldn't return.

McKeon's career began in 1982, taken by the White Sox in the first round of the June secondary draft, out of Miami-Dade College in Florida.

With the White Sox, McKeon got 11 starts his first season, four in the rookie Gulf Coast League and seven after making the jump to AA Glens Falls. At Glens Falls, he went 5-2, with a 3.00 ERA.

After playing at single-A Appleton in 1983, McKeon returned to Glens Falls for 1984 as as reliever. McKeon got into 45 games that year for Glens Falls, five starts, posting an ERA of 3.64.

McKeon moved to AAA Buffalo in 1985, returning there to start 1986. It was that May 3 that McKeon made his debut with Chicago.

McKeon ultimately got into 30 games in relief for the White Sox in 1987, posting a 2.45 ERA. He also picked up three wins and a save.

McKeon picked up his second relief win by mid-May, the second coming on two innings of work, The Tribune wrote.

"I told him that we'd use him," White Sox manager Tony LaRussa told The Tribune after that second McKeon win. "Spots on the major-league roster are precious. If you have a guy for a certain role, you use him."

By July, McKeon was pitching well. Then he came down with hepatitis, having to be hospitalized, The Tribune wrote. His teammates also had to get preventative shots. He was out for the year.

He came back for 1987, but his numbers suffered. After 11 outings, his ERA hit 8.00 and he got sent back down. But he pitched well enough there to get another chance in July.

"I'm starting to get the forkball over," McKeon told The Tribune. "Ive quit trying to throw the ball past hitters when you don't throw that hard. I've got my timing together. Hopefully, it will show."

McKeon, though, lasted just two more outings, his last giving up four earned runs in 2.2 innings of work.

McKeon continued playing through 1991, moving through the Padres, Braves and Expos systems, before landing with the Orioles for his final two seasons, ending his career without returning to the majors.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Frank DiMichele, Made Of - 26

Originally published Oct. 1, 2017
Fresh off a season where he saw four outings in the majors, Frank DiMichele vowed to get back, according to The Los Angeles Times.

"I'm going to show what Frank DiMichele is made of," DiMichele told The Times in August 1989. "I had a taste (of the majors). Now I know what it takes."

Despite his brief stint in the majors the previous year, DMichele played 1989 back at AA. He played two more seasons after that, but those four big league outings proved to be the entire make up of his big league career. He didn't get back.

DiMichele's career began in 1985, taken by the Angels in the 15th round out of Community College of Philadelphia.

He started with the Angels at short-season Salem. He got into nine games, starting eight. He went 1-5, with a 5.83 ERA. He left an early August game with a sore elbow.

DiMichele returned to the field with single-A Quad City for 1986. He went 7-10, with a 3.67 mark. He then moved to single-A Palm Springs for 1987, going 6-9.

Invited to spring training 1988, the lefty DiMichele caught some eyes immediately. Among those eyes was Angels manager Gene Mauch, according to The Times.

"If DiMichele sneaks in there, what'd be wrong with that?" Mauch told The Times. "I don't know what's he's going to do, but he's definitely got my attention."

DiMichele took advantage. He waited until March 24 to give up his first run and pitched well enough to earn the title "hotshot rookie." He was also counted among the leading candidates for a roster spot.

Not having played above single-A, DiMichele made the team. He debuted April 8. He got into four games in all and gave up five earned in 4.2 innings if relief.

He played the rest of that year at AAA Edmonton and AA Midland. He then returned to Midland for all of 1989.

In 1990, he started at Midland and then moved to the Padres at AA Wichita. He then finished out his career with 22 relief outings at AA Reading in 1991.

DiMichele has since returned home to Pennsylvania. He spent time as a coach and head coach at LaSalle University. More recently, he teaches pitching through ThePitchingPro.com in Norristown, Pa.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Andy Hall, Position Change - 35

Originally published Oct. 5, 2017
The El Cajon Little Leaguers needed a solid relief performance to ensure a slot in the 1977 Little League World Series championship game and Andy Hall delivered.

The young California hurler and outfielder, changed positions from the outfield to the mound to get the final three outs to eliminate Rotterdam, NY's Carmen Little League by a score of 6-3, according to The Associated Press.

Hall went on from the Little League World Series years later to turn pro, and focus on another position change. The professional catcher Hall played a total of nine seasons. He made AAA, but not the bigs.

Hall's pro career began in 1983, taken by the Pirates in the third round of the draft out of El Cajon High School.

He started with the Pirates in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He got into 40 games as a catcher and hit .287.

Hall then started 1984 in Pirates camp. He played the season at single-A Macon. He hit .190 in 73 games.

He played briefly at short-season Watertown in 1985 then a full season between Macon and short-season Tri-Cities in 1986. He hit .208 on the year with six home runs.

Hall first made it above single-A in 1989. He made AA Harrisburg and then AAA Buffalo. A fielding miscue in the outfield led to a Hall triple that scored two in a May game for Buffalo.

Hall moved to the Angels system later that year and got time at AA Midland. He saw eight games there to finish out 1989. Injuries then limited his 1990 playing time to just seven total games.

Hall played one final season in 1991, at independent high-A Miami. He hit .175 over 39 games to end his career.

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