Fortunately, it is to a minor league contract.
No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I’m talking the Russ Ortiz who signed a 4 year deal with the Diamondbacks in 04 and was so incredibly terrible (and also obese, out of shape, unwilling to work on mechanics or anything else) that they released him after 6 gawd awful starts (22.2 IP, 7.54 ERA, 2.162 WHIP) into the second year of his 4 year contract and ate the remaining 22 million. He went to Baltimore, as usual, desperate for any person who could so much as throw a baseball even a lil faster than BP, and he crapped out there too, 5 starts, 15 relief appearances, 8.48 ERA over 40 IP.
My overwhelming Russ Ortiz memory is not one of the times the Astros faced him, but in Game 6 in the 02 WS. He was soundly beating the Angels 5-0, the Giants were leading in games 3-2, he’d given up only 2 hits when he came in to start the 7th. He gave up 2 singles, then with Scott Spiezio, slugger, striding to the plate, Dusty Baker trudged out to the mound, held out his hand for the ball, patted Ortiz, who looked a little unwilling to come out, he’d easily gotten Spiezio out twice, then Dusty gave Ortiz the ball – you know, a souveneir for the winning pitcher.
I remember looking at Husband and saying – oh, that was a BAD luck thing to do. And it was. Because Felix Rodriguez came in and promptly gave up a homer and then it was 5-3. And then Worrell let the other 3 runs score and yes I do remember that it was Barry Lamar’s error that allowed the winning (unearned) run.
Interesting - I can think of at least a few more times that a team’s unexpected victory in Game 6 led to the demoralizing of their opponent, who then laid down in Game 7 (remember the Denkinger? remember the Buckner?)
But I digressed there, didn’t I?
Back on Russ Ortiz -
he was picked in the 4th round of the 95 draft by the Giants and was called up in 98. He was a pretty good pitcher from 99-04, averaging 210 IP/yr over 33 games started, with ERA+ of 113, 85, 122, 107, 112, 104.) He always walked a lot of guys, around 4.6/9 IP, but kept the hits down, around 8.2/9 IP and kept the homers down to around .85/9 IP. Yes, I suppose it DID help pitching in the HR graveyard that is Pac Bell.
Anyway, after the 02 season, the Giants had to decide whether to keep Kirk Rueter or Russ Ortiz, and they decided to trade Russ to the Braves for Damian Moss and Merkin Valdez. Have you ever heard me say that only a dammfool will agree to take pitchers from Atlanta? In 03, Moss threw 89 innings of 89 ERA+ ball and then was released; Merkin Valdez threw 1.2 innings giving up 5 runs in 04 and 16 innings giving up 5 runs last year. Russ Ortiz gave the Braves 417 innings of 108 ERA+ ball.
Winner, Braves (as usual, when it comes to pitcher trades.)
And Rueter, who the Giants decided to keep instead of Ortiz? He threw 147 innings of 93 ERA+ ball in 2003, 190 innings of 92 ERA+ ball in 04 and gave up the ghose in 05, throwing 104 innings of 72 ERA+ ball before being released – as I remember it, 2 years into a 4 year contract. Or was it 3 years into a 5 year contract? Ah well.
Anyway, I have absolutely no idea why Ortiz decided to show up to Dbax camp grossly overweight and out of shape in the spring of 05, but he did. He threw 22 execrable games over 115 innings, then the Dbax “noticed” he seemed to be “injured” so they sent him down to try to work with him to get some weight off and fix his mechanics. They were, to put it mildly, unsuccessful. He was even worse the next year and apparently completely recalcitrant to all efforts to persuade him to lose weight or work on his mechanics and the Dbax decided they’d be better off without him than with him.
The next year, he went to work for the Giants again, threw 49 innings of 81 ERA+ ball before injuring his elbow. He then had TJ surgey and sat out all of 08.
Apparently, he can throw without pain, but I don’t know if he can pitch worth a darn or if he’ll resemble Dave Burba/Steve Sparks when we invited them to ST. Ortiz weighed 210 when he was first a major leaguer at age 25. When he was released from Arizona, he looked as if he weighed a GOOD 275 if he weighed an ounce and at 6’1″, he doesn’t need to weigh over 225 at the most.
Ah well. Maybe he can be a middle reliever. Cain’t never have too many of those, right Eddie?
Tags: Houston Astros