Happy Birthday–December 28

Ted Lyons (1900)
Tommy Bridges (1906)
Bill Lee (1946)
Aurelio Rodriguez (1947)
John Milner (1949)
Ray Knight (1952)
Zane Smith (1960)
Carl Willis (1960)
Benny Agbayani (1971)
Melvin Nieves (1971)
Einar Diaz (1972)
B. J. Ryan (1975)
Bill Hall (1979)

Right-hander Carl Blake Willis was a reliever for the Twins from 1991-1995. Born in Danville, Virginia, he attended Piedmont Academy in Providence, Virginia, and then went to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He was drafted by Detroit in the 23rd round in 1983. A reliever from the start, he was in the Tigers' organization for almost two years, spending about a month with the big club in 1984 before being traded to Cincinnati on the first of September. He ended his 1984 season with the Reds and spent the next two years going back and forth between Cincinnati and AAA (he had been chosen by California in the 1985 Rule 5 draft, but was returned to the Reds before the season started). Stuck in AAA all of 1987, he had a decent year there, but was traded to the White Sox after the season. He had a mediocre season in AAA for Chicago in 1988 (getting about two weeks in the majors), and was unprotected again after the season. Willis was again selected by California, this time in the minor league draft. He again spent the whole year in AAA, making ten starts along with 26 relief appearances. A free agent after the season, Willis signed with Cleveland for 1990 and had a bad year in AAA. A free agent again after the season, it appeared his career might be over, but the Twins signed him and, after three good appearances in AAA Portland, brought him to the majors. Surprisingly, given his track record, Willis gave the Twins three solid seasons out of the bullpen. From 1991-1993, he was 18-6, 2.79 with a WHIP of 1.11. He had a poor year in 1994, and when he got off to a bad start in 1995, Willis was released. He was again signed by California a couple of months later, but he once again did not get out of AAA with the Angels, and his career ended after the season. As a Twin, Carl Willis was 20-10, 3.65 in 204 relief appearances, totalling 286.1 innings. After his playing days ended, Willis got into coaching, and was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians. Let go after the 2009 season, Carl Willis was named minor league pitching coordinator for the Seattle Mariners and became the major league team’s pitching coach in August, the position he currently holds.

Outfielder Melvin (Ramos) Nieves did not play for the Twins, but went to spring training with them in 1988. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, went to high school in Santa Rosa, Puerto Rico, and signed with Atlanta as a free agent in 1988. He did all right in the low minors, but really came on in 1992, hitting .287 with 26 homers in a year spent mostly in AA. He made his big league debut that year, reaching Atlanta as a September call-up. He was playing well in 1993 when he was traded to San Diego in a trade that sent Fred McGriff to the Braves. He got a September call-up again in 1993 was in San Diego for about three weeks in 1994, hitting .308 with 25 homers in AAA that year. His first full year in the majors was 1995, when he was a reserve outfielder. He hit 14 homers in 262 at-bats, but he batted only .205. In March of 1996 he was traded to Detroit, where he stayed for two seasons. He was a semi-regular right fielder there and showed some power, hitting 44 homers over two seasons, but batted just .238. He was traded to Cincinnati for 1998 and was there most of the season, but was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. He hit .252 with 2 homers in 119 at-bats, and that turned out to be his major league swan song. He did not know it at the time, of course, and kept playing for quite a while after that. The Twins signed him as a free agent, but sold him to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks on March 20, 1999. He was in Japan through 2000, played briefly in AAA for the Rockies in 2001, went to Mexico for 2002, was in the Atlantic League in 2003, was out of baseball in 2004, came back in the Washington organization in 2005, went back to Mexico later in 2005 and in 2006, and played briefly in Mexico again in 2008. His brother, Wil Nieves, was a major league player, as was his uncle, ex-Twin Jose Morales. At last report, Melvin Nieves was living in Southern Pines, North Carolina.