Today would have been Major League Opening Day. Instead, we are reminiscing fond memories of seasons past. If you haven’t re-watched the Pirates-Reds 2013 Wild Card Game yet, I highly recommend that you do.
To draw this back to an Altoona perspective, we often celebrate former players that went on to play in the Majors and thrived. This is another piece to recognize their accomplishments. We’ve touched on career WAR, potential Hall of Famers and World Series champions that have suited up in a Curve uniform before their MLB exploits.
Today’s topic: longevity. It’s one thing to get to the big leagues and a completely different one to stay there for a long time. Let’s take a dive into former Curve players that have spent the most time in the Majors, who has the unique distinction of the fewest games and players that have suited up on the most MLB teams.
Most MLB Games
Identifying players to play the most MLB games is a simple one for position players. Pitchers are a bit tricky so we identified the alum with the most MLB appearances and another with the most innings pitched, meaning one reliever and one starter made the cut.
- Andrew McCutchen (2006-07) – 1560 games, 11 seasons (active)
- Rajai Davis (2005) – 1448 games, 14 seasons (active)
- Jack Wilson (2000) – 1370 games, 12 seasons
Notes: Jose Bautista (2005) played in 1,798 games in 15 seasons but made his MLB debut BEFORE he played for the Curve in 2005. Neil Walker (2006-07) is still active and has played 1,288 games in 11 seasons and could pass Jack Flash depending on the outcomes of the 2020 season.
Starter – Bronson Arroyo (1999) – 2435.2 innings, 16 seasons
Reliever – Joe Beimel (2000) – 676 appearances, 13 seasons
Notes: Gerrit Cole (2012) has pitched 1195 innings over the first seven seasons of his career and is on pace to surpass Arroyo in the coming years. Tony Watson (2009-10) has made 606 appearances over the first nine years of his career and could surpass Beimel in the next two years.
Fewest MLB Games
On the other side of the spectrum, the Curve have two versions of Moonlight Graham. First baseman Ron Wright (1999) and starting pitcher Rudy Owens (2010) each played exactly one MLB game. Unlike Graham, they each played more than one inning.
Wright’s lone game in the Majors took place on April 12, 2002 with the Seattle Mariners against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Wright was actually a September call-up by the Braves in 1997 but he did not play due to an injury. He nearly made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1998 but went down with a back injury that wiped out his season. Fast-forward to 2002, Hall of Fame designated hitter Edgar Martinez went down with an injury of his own to open the door for Wright. The M’s won, 9-7, but Wright had a tough day at the plate on that afternoon in Texas. He struck out in his first at-bat, hit into a triple play in his second and bounced into a double play during his final plate appearance. Mark McLemore replaced him as the DH and he never got a chance at redemption in the Majors.
For Rudy Owens, injury opened the door as well. Brad Peacock was sidelined for the Houston Astros and Owens was brought up for his MLB debut on May 23, 2014. Owens found a familiar face in the lineup that night in Seattle in Astros right fielder Alex Presley, who was another integral figure in Altoona’s 2010 championship team. Owens pitched well. He held Seattle to three runs over five innings but a two-run homer with one out in the sixth by Willie Bloomquist made his line look a tad more crooked than he would’ve liked. He shouldered the losing decision in a 6-1 Mariners victory. Owens was optioned to Triple-A the next day and was actually recalled again a few weeks later but never appeared in another big league game.
Here are a few other “one-hit wonders” that reached the Majors after playing for the Curve:
- Duke Welker (2011-12) – 2 games
- Phil Irwin (2011-12) – 2 games
- Jimmy Barthmaier (2008, 10) – 3 games
- Dave Davidson (2006-07) – 3 games
- Yurendell de Caster (2004) – 3 games
- Brian Smith (2000-01) – 3 games
- Ray Sadler (2003-06) – 3 games
- Stephen L. Sparks (2000-01) – 3 games
Most Traveled MLB Alumni
Going back to our theme of longevity, there are a few players that have lengthened their career by finding what seems like countless opportunities with different organizations. No former Curve player has done that like Zach Duke (2004).
Duke has played for nine (!!!) different teams at the big league level. Six of his 15 total seasons were with the Pirates from 2005-2010, including his lone all-star season in 2009. He’s also suited up for the Cardinals, Nationals, Reds, White Sox, Twins, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Brewers. It’s not quite Kenny Lofton, but Duke has put up great numbers over the years since he departed Pittsburgh and reinvented himself as a reliever. Duke is currently a free agent and could add a 10th team if his career continues at age 36 (turns 37 on April 19).
Terry Mulholland pitched in two games on MLB rehab for the Curve in 2001 and he also played for nine teams in the Majors.
Rajai Davis has played for eight MLB teams (Athletics, Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates, Indians, Tigers, Mets, Red Sox) and is currently signed to play in Mexico this year. When the 2020 season picks up and he returns to the big leagues at age 39, he’d match Duke.
Here are a couple other Curve alumni that have made the rounds in the Majors:
- Jose Bautista (2005) – 8 teams (Blue Jays, Pirates, Royals, Mets, Rays, Phillies, Braves, Orioles)
- Joe Beimel (2000) – 7 teams (Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Mariners, Twins, Rays, Nationals)
- Jeff Keppinger (2004) – 7 teams (Astros, Reds, Royals, Rays, Mets, Giants, White Sox)
- Steve Pearce (2007) – 7 teams (Pirates, Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Astros)
This contribution to the Around the Curve Blog is presented by Microtel. Plan your stay at one of Altoona’s three Lion Country Lodging locations. Click here to make a reservation today.
Editors Note: You can watch the Pirates-Red 2013 Wild Card Game right here: