“Hey, Remember Me?”
Every March, hope springs eternal for baseball players and fans alike. And while that sounds pretty nice, hope is all some players have left. If you’re looking for off-beat spring story lines worth following (instead of how fat a player got over the winter), check out some of these guys looking for one more shot at the Show:
Andy Oliver (BAL): Oliver was the Oklahoma State pitcher who challenged the NCAA’s draconian rules about agents/advisors in 2008 and actually won a $750K settlement. Prior to his NCAA issues, he was seen as first-round talent, but faltered in 2009 and fell to the second round of that year’s draft. Oliver kicked around the Tigers, Pirates, Phillies and Rays organizations before signing with Baltimore last summer.
Carlos Marmol (BOS): From 2007 through 2010, Marmol was one of baseball’s best relievers, averaging almost 16 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010. In 2011 he fell off a cliff, struggling to perform at even league average levels. Boston is his sixth organization since 2013.
Jonny Venters (TBR): Before Chapman/Miller/Betances, there was “O’Ventbrel.” Venters worked with Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty to form an utterly dominant bullpen for Atlanta from 2010-2011. Venters made the All-Star game in 2011, but things would soon unravel after that. Two Tommy John surgeries later, Venters is looking to make his first big-league appearance since 2012.
Roberto Hernandez (TOR): Won 19 games for the Tribe in 2007 as “Fausto Carmona,” including a complete game victory against the Yankees in the Division Series. When his true identity was revealed, he struggled to regain his ’07 form, but has managed to hang around for the better part of the last decade. Another example of why no athlete should ever willingly stay in Cleveland (Are you listening, Michael Brantley?).
Brad Penny (TOR): Dunedin is a really great place for sentimental fans this spring — aside from Hernandez and Penny, the Jays also have Casey Kotchman and David Aardsma in camp. Alas, Penny is the big name in this group: former paramour of Alyssa Milano, 2003 World Series winner and a two-time All-Star, Penny hasn’t pitched a full season since 2011, and he sat out 2013 and 2015 entirely. Despite making over $50M during his career, he still has a beard that looks like a tobacco stain.
Joba Chamberlain (CLE): JOBA! The former Yankee phenom is back in the city where his career first unraveled during the 2007 playoffs. The last few seasons have not been kind to this former Cornhusker, but he seems to have found a home in the AL Central: the Indians are the third NL Central team that has tried reclaiming all that potential he flashed almost a decade ago.
Chien-Ming Wang (KCR): Can’t blame Poppa Joe for this one! Wang won 48 games for the Yankees from 2006 to 2008, but a freak foot injury suffered while running the bases during a 2008 interleague game in Houston messed with his delivery, leading to dreaded shoulder soreness and the end of a once-promising career.
Ryan Sweeney (MIN): Most fans had no earthly idea about their team’s minor league prospects until the early 2000’s. However, thanks to Peter Gammons and the Internet, every fan could go to the Baseball Cube and extrapolate future stardom for their team’s top guys. Sweeney was one of those guys, but the talent never caught up to the hype: last April, the Cubs cut him.
Bronson Arroyo (WAS): One of 2015’s best baseball pieces was a reflection on Arroyo, a throwback to the mid-00’s, a weird time in baseball where players looked like they were in Nickleback and did creative things with their facial hair. Arroyo has made close to $100M (WTF!?!?!?) in his career and is coming off Tommy John surgery, but the 39 year-old soft-tosser apparently isn’t ready to give up being a big-league ballplayin’ bro.
Matt Murton (CHC): He’s a ginger Ryan Sweeney trying to make a comeback after spending six successful years playing in Japan. One of Theo Epstein’s first draftees in Boston, Murton’s a nice “Told You So” pet project for Theo to work on this spring.
Kyle Drabek (AZ): Spoiled rich kid of former big league hurler Doug, Kyle’s been humbled by two Tommy John surgeries and mediocre results on the mound. A 2006 first-round draft pick of the Phillies; it’s hard to believe he’s only 28 years-old.
Adam Loewen (AZ): Loewen, Erik Bedard and Matt Riley were supposed to lead the Orioles franchise into the 21st century. A 2002 first rounder, Loewen showed flashes of brilliance but couldn’t keep his left arm healthy, eventually converting to a position player. Once he completed his rehab in Baltimore, the British Columbia native jilted the O’s for his Canadian brethren in Toronto, hitting his first MLB dinger against the O’s in 2011. Now he’s trying again in the desert as a pitcher. Something tells me O’s fans won’t be rooting for him.
Jamey Wright (LAD): Wright is 41 years-old and has pitched for 10 organizations. He has a career 4.81 ERA and has made over $16M in his career. He couldn’t find a job in 2015, but played catch with Clayton Kershaw this winter and earned an invite to LA’s spring training. Sports, man.
Ricky Romero (SFG): Romero, famously known as the guy drafted before Troy Tulowitzki, started living up to that draft position from 2009 through 2011, culminating with an All-Star selection and sub-3.00 ERA in 2011. But like so many before him, injuries derailed his career in Toronto leading to a disastrous 2012. He swears he’s healthy this time around with the Giants, but he’ll need more than health if we wants to make his first MLB appearance since 2013.