Thursday, March 3, 2011
Octavio Martinez, 2001 Topps Traded Chrome #T230
This brings me to one of the guilty pleasures I've found in Spring Training: the very notion of the non-roster invite, the former big league star or starter or even fringe player who's clinging to that last shred of hope. You never know who's going to turn up, and it's a harmless nostalgia trip to see them suit up in an Orioles uniform for a few weeks.
This year, the O's "Oh Yeah, That Guy Squad" includes pitchers Ryan Drese (who won 14 games for Buck Showalter's Rangers in 2004 and last pitched in the majors in 2006) and Josh Rupe (only full MLB season was 2008 with Texas), catcher Michel Hernandez (short stints with the Yankees in 2003 and the Rays in 2008, 2009), infielder Nick Green (batted .273 in 95 games for the Braves in 2004, has hit .224 for 6 teams since), and 36-year-old outfielder Randy Winn (Tampa Bay's lone All-Star in 2002). The chances are slim for any of them to spend time on the 25-man roster in 2011, but someone should recognize that for a short while they were Orioles.
chose to retire rather than back up Gregg Zaun at Rochester.
Three years later, Kelly Gruber came out retirement to put on the black and orange. He'd started at third base for the Blue Jays from 1987-1992, making two All-Star teams and having a career year in 1990 (.274, 36 2B, 31 HR, 118 RBI). But he hung up his spikes in 1993 when a degenerative disk condition in his neck limited him to 18 games with the Angels. He recovered from an 0-for-16 start to hit .256 in Grapefruit League play but was edged out for a utility job by Jeff Reboulet. The O's were sufficiently impressed with Gruber to assign him to AAA Rochester, and he saw time at first base, second base, and in the outfield. Injuries limited Kelly to 38 games. He hit only .250 with a .327 on-base percentage and .382 slugging, and retired for good.
Do you have any memories of other Spring Training invites who couldn't quite make it to Baltimore? I'm all ears...or eyes.