By Marks and Lil Marks
The 2005 season was a roller coaster ride for the Pirates. Jason Bay became the first player in franchise history to hit for a .300 average, 40 doubles, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 20 steals in a season. He also nearly set an MLB record for most stolen bases in a season without being caught stealing. Bay was tied for the record, stealing 21 for 21, until he was picked off on the third to last game of the year. Zach Duke put together an exceptional rookie campaign and won 20 games between AAA and the majors. The Pirates were somehow at the magical .500 mark on June 11, but then went into a heavy slump.
The 2005 season also brought on a number of changes for the Pirates. Lloyd McClendon was fired in September and bench coach Pete Mackanin took his place as interim head coach. By the end of the year, the entire coaching staff was fired.
Zach Duke: After an 8-2 rookie campaign where he posted a 1.81 ERA, the sky was the limit for this rookie sensation. D
uring the next season it looked like batting practice when Duke pitched. He gave up an MLB-high 255 hits and never again finished a season with an ERA below 4.00. After the 2010 season the Pirates were able to pull off a blockbuster deal when they traded Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks for César Valdez.
Mark Redman: After a stellar 5-15 campaign with the Pirates, Redman joined the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He managed to go 11-10 and make the All Star team, despite having an ERA of 5.71.In 2007 Redman started the season with the Atlanta Braves, but was released after his ERA climbed to 11.63 and he was forced to undergo surgery for an ingrown toenail. Over the next few months Redman would spend time in the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies minor league systems. Interestingly, Redman made an emergency start with the Rockies in September after Elmer Dessens suffered a hamstring injury. Ahh, the full circle of Pirates suckiness. Redman remained with the Rockies for the 2008 season, but was sent down to the minors in July. After this stint in AAA, Redman left baseball and has not since returned.
Fun fact: In April 2008, Redman accomplished something that had not been done since 1900, he gave up 10 runs and still finished the inning.
Another fun fact: Before each game Redman would sign a baseball “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME - PHIL 4:13” and give it to a fan.
Tom Gorzelanny: During the 2009 season the Pirates sent a struggling Gorzelanny packing to Chicago along with John Grabow. Gorzelanny started several games for the Cubs, often jumping back and forth whenever Carlos Zambrano had to visit the bullpen to calm down his anger issues. In January 2011 the Washington Nationals acquired Gorzo from the Cubs for three prospects.
Fun fact: Gorzelanny decided to stop throwing his curve ball in 2010.
Bryan Bullington: The first overall selection in the 2002 draft quickly accelerated through the minors and reached the majors in September 2005, only to pitch a measly 1.1 innings. Since Bullington was ready to start his career with the Pirates, he naturally underwent Tommy John surgery after the season and missed all of 2006. He came back in 2007 with a decent season in AAA, enough to earn a September call up. Bullington struggled in his three starts and lost all three games. After a bad start to the 2008 season in AAA, the Pirates released Bullington at the age of 27. Eventually the Cleveland Indians claimed him off waivers, where Bullington again failed to impress at the AAA level. The Toronto Blue Jays signed Bullington in the offseason (Rickel, did you know about this?) and he began the season in AAA, where he started to get back his rhythm. The Blue Jays were plagued with injuries to their pitching staff in April and Bullington was promoted to the Major Leagues. He would make a major league appearance before the month of September for the first time in his career. His first three outings resulted in scoreless innings of relief, but he started to falter and was sent down. Bullington signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals and put together his best AAA season with an 8-2 record and 2.82 ERA. He was brought up in May to help the bullpen, but did not fare very well. He was called up again in late July and has been in the majors ever since. His first and only major league win came against the New York Yankees, pitching 8 innings of two-hit shutout baseball. Three weeks later he was demoted to the bullpen. Following the 2010 season, the Kansas City Royals took Bullington off their 40 man roster. Bullington decided to sign with a Japanese club called the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Fun fact: Toyo means “heavily mutated by atomic bomb” in Japanese.
Rick White: The only thing we really remember about Rick White is that he wore the numbers 88 and 00. After starting out with the Pirates in 1994 and 1995, White went to Tampa Bay where he settled into a relieving role. After a few years with the Devil Rays, White spent time with the Mets, Rockies, Cardinals, White Sox, Astros, and Indians before he made his triumphant return to Pittsburgh. After dominating the mound at PNC Park, White pitched for the Reds, Phillies, Astros, and Mariners.
You’re going to pay me how much to throw a baseball? Alright, as long as it isn’t during hunting season.
J. J. Furmaniak: Some loved him for his name, some hated him for his jersey foul (no one else is allowed to wear #66 in Pittsburgh, you idiot), but most didn't know who he was. Try telling that to his die-hard fans though.
Furmaniak (the maniac) spent all of 2006 in AAA Indianapolis, then joined the Athletics in 2007.During the offseason he signed with the Yokohama BayStars. After his season in Japan, JJ spent the 2009 season with the Phillies’ AAA team. Furmaniak was in the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen for the 2010 season.
Alfredo Amézaga: After a cup of coffee with the Pirates, Amézaga signed with the Florida Marlins. He spent four years there, but his 2009 campaign was cut short due to a knee surgery. The Marlins released him after the 2009 season and he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Amézaga missed time early in the season, but returned to their AA squad in May. He played one game and missed the rest of the season. Amézaga recently signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies.
They play baseball a little differently in Mexico.
Brad Eldred: Ahh, Big Country. The greatest first base prospect ever to grace the Pirates organization. Granted, between the minor leagues and majors he hit 40 home runs this year. But most Pirate fans will never forget that the team was offered Ryan Howard and turned it down because we had our first baseman of the future already in place. After a pretty successful 2005 season, Eldred missed the entire 2006 season. He made the opening day roster for the Pirates in 2007, but was demoted to AAA Indianapolis in May. Eldred signed with the White Sox in the offseason, where he hit 38 home runs and 100 RBI for their AAA team. Big Country signed with the Washington Nationals in the offseason, but was not as impressive in AAA this time. He signed with the Colorado Rockies for the 2010 season and was briefly called up when Todd Helton landed on the DL. This is really what ‘Where are they now?’ is all about: Brad Eldred is still in baseball. He recently signed a minor league deal with the defending champion San Francisco Giants.
Matt Lawton: Lawton was traded to the Cubs at the deadline for the often injured Jody Gerut. He was then sent to the New York Yankees in August after he passed through waivers. In the offseason Lawton was suspended for 10 games for performance enhancing drug use. This suspension carried over to the 2006 season, where he played with the Seattle Mariners. Lawton was sent down within a month, only playing 11 games with the team.
Michael Restovich: If you know who this man is, you are indeed a diehard Pirate fan. He appeared in 52 games and hit just .214. After the 2005 season, Restovich spent time with the Cubs, Nationals, Phillies, White Sox, and Dodgers. He has not played a game in the majors since 2007.
Ryan Doumit: Currently a $5.1 million back up to Chris Snyder. Known for his average switch hitting and horrid defensive abilities, Pittsburgh comedian Mike Wysocki states that “he couldn’t throw out Stan Savran pushing Alby Oxenreiter in a rigshaw.” Please see exhibit A. That look on Doumit’s face is priceless.
Matt Capps: The 2009 Pirates chose to non-tender the closer, who then signed a one year $3.5 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals. Capps would begin the 2010 season by converting his first 16 saves. At the half way point of the season, he played in the All Star game
and got the National League’s first win in 13 years. Capps was then traded to the Twins where he would go 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA and convert 16 of 18 saves in August. The Twins made the playoffs, but Capps saw just one inning on the mound, giving up one run against the Yanks in the ALDS. Capps will likely be the setup man to Joe Nathan this upcoming season after signing a one year, $7.15 million deal with the Twins.
He’s a big bull rider…
Benito Santiago: The Pirates gave up future Marlins closer Leo Nunez for Santiago and only kept Benny around for his last 23 at bats. After the 2005 season he signed a minor league contract with the Mets, later opting out and retiring in 2006. Santiago, always known for his durability, was mentioned in the 2007 book Game of Shadows when the Giants’ clubhouse attendant found a pack of syringes in his locker.
David Ross: Ross was traded to the Padres for JJ Furmaniak. The Reds signed Ross as a free agent in 2006. In 2007 Ross slumped at the beginning of the season 4 hits in first 38 at bats with 17 SO, hit into a 5-4-3 triple play against the Phillies, and finished batting .203. Ross was released from the Reds in 2008 and signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. At the end of the 2008 season, Ross signed a 2 year deal with the Braves, which was extended another 2 years in 2010.
Chris Duffy: After leaving the Pirates and going home due to a lack of desire to continue a career in professional sports in 2006, Duffy had a Pirates-esque season in
Ray Sadler: Sadler was traded to the Pirates for Randall Simon. When he was called up at the last minute to replace an injured Craig Wilson, Lloyd McClendon mistook him for a construction worker.
“No, I’m here to play left field.”
Nate McLouth: McLouth was traded midseason for Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and Gorkys Hernandez in 2009. Trading the 2008 All-Star, Gold Glove Award, and Roberto Clemente Award winner did not come as a surprise for Pirates fans that have seen many stars leave town in their prime before. The 2010 season was a disaster for McLouth, resulting in him being sent down to AAA in July. At that point in the season he was hitting for a .168 AVG, 3 HR, and 14 RBI. McLouth hit .234 in 34 games after being recalled August 31st. The Braves will take another shot at McLouth starting in center field this season, at least until the fans chase him out of town. While not a fan favorite in Atlanta, McLouth would be welcomed into the Aryan Brotherhood.
Ronny Paulino: The Buccos traded Paulino to the Phillies for Jaramillo. He was traded to the Marlins two hours later. Paulino found success platooning with John Baker, but unfortunately, he received a 50-game suspension for taking weight control pills, which violated MLB banned substances policy. Ronny will back up Josh Thole on the Mets next season after he sits out the first eight games of the season for the PED suspension.