Happy Birthday–April 19

Bucky Walters (1909)
Hector Maestri (1935)
Rick Miller (1948)
Ed Hodge (1958)
R. J. Reynolds (1959)
Frank Viola (1960)
Spike Owen (1961)
Scott Kamieniecki (1964)
Brent Mayne (1968)
Jose Cruz (1974)
Joe Beimel (1977)
Dennys Reyes (1977)
George Sherrill (1977)
Alberto Callaspo (1983)
Zach Duke (1983)
Joe Mauer (1983)

Right-hander Hector Maestri was with the Washington franchise in 1960, making one appearance in the majors.  Before the 1961 season started, however, he was selected in the expansion draft by the new Washington franchise, for whom he made one more appearance in 1961.

Left-hander Ed Oliver Hodge made 25 appearances for the Twins in 1984. Born in Bellflower, California, Hodge was drafted by Minnesota in the fifth round of the January draft in 1979. There is nothing in his minor league record that suggests he would be a major league pitcher, but the 1984 Twins were desperate for a fifth starter, so after he had three good starts at AAA Toledo, going 2-0, 2.01 with a 0.90 WHIP, Ed Hodge found himself in the big league rotation. He did quite a bit better than could have been expected, going 3-2, 4.12 through mid-June, but then was injured, missing a month and a half. He came back on August 1, made five fair-to-middling starts, then spent the rest of the year in the bullpen.  For the season, he was 4-3, 4.77.  He pitched in 25 games, 15 of them starts, and pitched exactly 100 innings.  Those would also be his career numbers; he was back in Toledo in 1985, had another not-to-good season, and was released after the season.  He pitched for the Braves’ AAA team in 1986, and then his playing career came to an end.  More recently, he has done some coaching, serving as the pitching coach for the Sarasota Reds in 2006 and for Lakewood in the Phillies’ organization in 2007.  He was a batting practice pitcher/coach for Houston from 2011-2012, and was hired to do a similar job for Detroit in 2013.  He still held that job at last report.  He also works with the Baseball Coaching Academy, which will help you become a Next Level Ballplayer (NLB).

Left-hander Frank John Viola pitched for the Twins for most of the 1980s.  He was born in Hempstead, New York and went to high school in East Meadow, New York.  He then attended St. John’s (where he was involved in an epic pitcher’s duel with Yale’s Ron Darling that is still talked about occasionally), and was drafted by the Twins in the second round in 1981.  He pitched reasonably well at AA Orlando in 1981, and after eight starts in AAA Toledo in 1982 he was in the Minnesota rotation at age 22.  He was clearly not ready, posting ERAs over five and WHIPs over 1.5 in his first two seasons.  When things clicked in, though, they did so in style.  In 1984, Viola went 18-12, 3.21 with a WHIP of 1.16 and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.  He slipped a little in 1985 and 1986, although he was still a solid rotation starter, but in 1987 and 1988 he had his two best seasons.  He went 41-17 in those two years, with an ERA of 2.77.  He won the Cy Young award in 1988, when he won 24 of those games.  Viola also finished tenth in MVP voting that year.  He pitched over 245 innings  each season for the Twins from 1984-1988.  He was still pitching well at the end of July, 1989 when he was traded to the Mets for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West, and a player to be named later (Jack Savage).  He continued to pitch Well for the Mets, winning 20 games in 1990 and finishing third in Cy Young voting that season.  He also continued to pitch well over 200 innings each season.  A free agent after the 1991 campaign, Viola signed with Boston and had two more very good years.  After that, however, he struggled through injuries, had Tommy John surgery, and was never an effective pitcher again.  He pitched briefly with Cincinnati in 1995 and Toronto in 1996 before bringing his playing career to an end.  As a Twin, Frank Viola was 112-93, 3.86 in 260 appearances, 259 of them starts.  Since his retirement, Viola has done some high-school and college coaching and has also done some broadcasting with the New England Sports Network.  In 2011 he was the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn League and from 2012-2013 he was the pitching coach of the Savannah Sand Gnats in the South Atlantic League.  He was going to be pitching coach of the AAA Las Vegas 51s in 2014, but open-heart surgery put that move on hold.  The surgery was successful and he was able to assume pitching coach duties for the 51s in 2015 and continues to hold that job this season.  Frank Viola is a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.

Left-handed reliever Joseph Ronald Beimel made three appearances for the Twins in 2004.  Born and raised in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, he attended Duquesne University and was drafted by Pittsburgh in the eighteenth round in 1998.  He started for much of his minor league career.  He had not pitched effectively above Class A when he suddenly made the Pirates out of spring training in 2001.  He was with Pittsburgh for three full seasons despite not pitching very well:  his ERA was exactly five and his WHIP was 1.58.  He made some starts in his first two years, but was moved exclusively to the bullpen in 2003.  The Pirates released Beimel at the end of March, 2004, and the Twins signed him a couple of weeks later.  He had a poor year in Rochester, despite which he was given a September call-up.  Beimel pitched 1.2 innings in three games, giving up eight runs on eight hits and two walks.  He became a free agent for 2005 and signed with Tampa Bay.  He didn’t pitch particularly well in AAA for them, either, but got to the big leagues for about a month and did well in seven appearances.  He signed with the Dodgers for 2006, pitched well in ten appearances at AAA, and came up to the majors, where at age 29 he finally found big-league success.  He was with Los Angeles for three years, appeared in 216 games, and had an ERA of 3.04.  Beimel was a free agent after the 2008 season and took a long time to sign, finally signing with Washington in mid-March.  He pitched well there, was traded to Colorado in mid-season, and continued to pitch fairly well through 2010.  He was a free agent after that season and signed with Pittsburgh.  He was injured much of the year but made 35 appearances for the Pirates, working 25.1 innings.  Unfortunately, he did not pitch well and was released at the end of August.  He signed with Texas for 2012 but was released in late March.  He underwent Tommy John surgery on May 1 of 2012.  Four years ago, we wrote,  "As he's 36 today, one assumes his playing career is over, but he's alive and left-handed, so maybe not."  Maybe not turned out to be accurate.  He signed with Atlanta in mid-May of 2013 and pitched for AAA Gwinnett the rest of the season.  A free agent after the season, he signed with Seattle and made it back to the majors for the first time since 2011.  He actually had a fine year for the Mariners.  He signed with Texas for 2015, was released in spring training, was re-signed by Seattle, and while he wasn't as good as 2014 he still pitched adequately.  He made twelve appearances with AAA Omaha in 2016 and was not very good.  He signed with New Britain in the Atlantic League for 2017.  It's doubtful that we'll see him in the majors again, but he's fooled us before.  The message here is that if your kid is interested in baseball, teach him to throw left-handed.  He may be able to play for a long time.

Left-handed reliever Dennys (Valarde) Reyes pitched for the Twins from 2006-2008.  Born and raised in Higuera de Zaragosa, Mexico, Reyes was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent in 1993.  He was a starter in his minor league career and was somewhat up-and-down, but pitched well in a month and a half stint with the Dodgers in 1997.  At mid-season of 1998, the Dodgers traded Reyes to Cincinnati, where he stayed through 2001.  He was not terrible in those years, although not particularly good, either.  He split 2002 between Colorado and Texas, not doing much for either team.  Reyes signed with Pittsburgh for 2003, was let go in May, and finished the season with Arizona, spending most of his time there in the minors.  Reyes moved to Kansas City in 2004 and San Diego in 2005, doing nothing to attract anyone’s attention.  The Padres released Reyes in July of 2005, and he was out of baseball until February of 2006, when Minnesota signed him.  Reyes then went out and had one of the best seasons a LOOGY ever had.  He appeared in 66 games, but pitched only 50.2 innings.  In those innings, he went 5-0, 0.89 with a WHIP of 0.99.  His ERA+ was 507.  He did not repeat those numbers, but remained a valuable LOOGY for two more seasons.  As a Twin, Dennys Reyes appeared in 191 games and pitched 126.1 innings.  He was 10-1, 2.14 with a WHIP of 1.27.  He became a free agent after the 2008 season and signed with St. Louis.  He pitched well for the Cardinals in 2009-2010, then became a free agent again and signed with Boston.  He made four appearances for the Red Sox and was made the fall guy for their poor start, getting sent outright to AAA.  He then missed most of the season and was released in late September.  He signed with Baltimore for 2012 but was released in early March.  He did not play in 2012, but he pitched in Mexico from 2013-2015.  He did not play anywhere during the 2016 season, but he played in winter ball.  If Joe Beimel's career teaches us anything, it's that you never know. One assumes his playing career is over, but he's alive and left-handed, so maybe not.

There’s very little to be said about catcher/first baseman Joseph Patrick Mauer that anyone reading this does not already know.  He was born and raised in St. Paul and was taken by Minnesota with the first pick of the 2001 draft.  His lowest average in the minors was .302, with Class A Quad Cities in 2002.  He showed very little power in the minors, never hitting more than five home runs in a season, although he hit 30 doubles in a 2003 split between Fort Myers and New Britain.  He started 2004 with Minnesota but was injured most of the season, getting only 107 at-bats (in which he hit .308 with six home runs).  His first full season came in 2005, when he hit .294 as a 22-year-old.  In 2006, Mauer won his first batting title, the first American League catcher ever to win one.  He has won two more since, including his highest average to date in 2009, .365.  In 2009, when he won the MVP, Mauer also led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.  In 2010, in what some considered an “off year”, he hit .326/.402/.469, won the silver slugger and the gold glove, and finished eighth in MVP voting.  He had an injury-plagued 2011 and took a lot of criticism, but still hit .287 in just under 300 at-bats.  He spent substantial time at first base and DH in 2012, but stayed healthy and came back with a fine season, batting .319 and leading the league in on-base percentage.  His 2013 season was similar, as he hit .324 and had a fine on-base percentage again.  He again was hampered by injuries in 2014, when he moved to first base full-time.  He played in 120 games but had the worst season of his career, although he still hit .277 with an OBP of .361.  In 2015 he went down a little farther, as concussion issues clearly continued to bother him.  He came back slightly in 2016, but not a lot.  He has made the all-star team six times, has finished in the top eight in MVP voting four times, has won three gold gloves, and has won five silver slugger awards.  Unfortunately, there are no signs that those numbers are likely to change. Joe Mauer turns thirty-four today.  It's a shame more people didn't appreciate what they had in him while they had it.

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday–April 19”

Leave a Reply