Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#165 Jose Rijo

About the Front: Jose Rijo is rocking back to deliver a pitch in Wrigley, and that outfield ivy doesn't look very lush. His only early-season start in Chicago in 1992 came on May 8, and it wasn't pretty. Jose got chased after allowing three Cubbie runs on six hits in three innings, including a Joe Girardi solo homer. The wind must have been blowing out; the Reds came back to win 10-7 in 12 innings after putting up a four-spot in the final inning.

About the Back: The A's traded Rijo to the Reds along with pitcher Tim Birtsas in December 1987 in order to acquire slugger Dave Parker. Three seasons later, he went 2-0 with an 0.59 ERA against his old team in the Fall Classic. That had to sting.

Triple Play:

1. Jose married Juan Marichal's daughter Rosie in 1987, and subsequently started wearing Marichal's #27 on the back of his uniform. Although the couple divorced in 1991, Rijo kept the number for the duration of his career.

2. He made an incredible comeback at age 36 in 2001 after sitting out a full five seasons with elbow troubles. Pitching mostly in relief for the Reds, the righthander posted a 5-4 record with a 4.60 ERA in 94 total innings in 2001 and 2002. He also became the first player since Minnie Minoso in 1980 to play in the majors after having received a vote for the Hall of Fame.

3. After retiring, Jose worked for the Washington Nationals as a special assistant to GM Jim Bowden. In early 2009, it was revealed that shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez, one of Rijo's Dominican Republic finds, had falsified his identity and was four years older than the Nats had believed him to be. This ultimately cost Jose his position with the team.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I loved Rijo's 1994 Score card, which featured him brandishing a tiny water gun. The next year, Score ran with a picture of the veteran equipped with a larger aquatic assault weapon.

Bill James Said:"A wonderful, wonderful pitcher; one can certainly make an argument that he is the best pitcher in baseball, although I go with Maddux."

On This Date in 1993: February 19. Elton John ends a concert performance in Melbourne, Australia 30 minutes earlier than planned when a swarm of grasshoppers invades the stage.

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