Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

Ron Kline had an ominous start to his stint with the Cardinals, foretelling of rough times ahead for the right-handed pitcher.

On Dec. 21, 1959, the Cardinals acquired Kline from the Pirates for outfielder Gino Cimoli and pitcher Tom Cheney. Kline, 27, was expected to join a starting rotation with Larry Jackson, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Ernie Broglio and Bob Miller in 1960.

Two weeks after the trade, on Jan. 3, 1960, Kline was on a commercial flight to St. Louis to sign his contract when one of the airplane’s engines stopped working.

“Our plane had an engine conk out half an hour out of Pittsburgh and the pilot invited anybody who felt shaky to get out at Indianapolis,” Kline told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Apparently, no one accepted the offer and the plane landed safely in St. Louis.

The precarious arrival set the tone for Kline. Over the next 15 months, he experienced a series of predicaments both on and off the field as a Cardinal.

Pirates product

Kline was born and raised in Callery, Pa., a railroad junction of about 400 residents located 27 miles north of Pittsburgh. He played for a town baseball team, got a tryout with the Pirates and signed when he was 18.

After two years in the minors, primarily at Class D, Kline, 20, earned a spot with the 1952 Pirates. Overmatched, he was 0-7 with a 5.49 ERA but bonded with a veteran starter, ex-Cardinal Howie Pollet.

Kline served in the Army in 1953 and 1954, returned to the Pirates in 1955 and lost his first two decisions, giving him an 0-9 record for his major-league career.

On May 1, 1955, Kline got his first big-league win, a shutout against the Cardinals at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Boxscore

Kline developed a reputation as a hard-luck starter whose record didn’t reflect his skill. His best Pirates seasons were 1956 (14-18, 3.38 ERA) and 1958 (13-16, 3.53).

In 1959, Kline was 11-13 with a 4.26 ERA. Disappointed he was limited to 186 innings after topping 200 in each of the previous three seasons, Kline said he wanted “to pitch more often or be traded,” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

“I have to pitch to make money,” Kline told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Pirates shopped Kline for an outfielder. After being rebuffed by the Giants in a bid to get either Willie Kirkland, Felipe Alou or Jackie Brandt, the Pirates came close to shipping Kline and shortstop Dick Groat to the Athletics for Roger Maris.

Betting on a breakthrough

Kline was shoveling snow outside his home when he got a call from Pirates general manager Joe Brown, informing him of the trade to St. Louis. Kline was recommended by his former teammate, Pollet, the Cardinals’ pitching coach.

“I saw a lot of potential in the kid,” Pollet told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “He has great desire and I have enough confidence in my ability to think I can make him a regular winner. He has a good fastball, but for some reason he didn’t throw it last season. He tried to be cute and too fine with his control.”

Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer, who hit .222 against Kline in his career, was glad to see him become a teammate. “Kline gave me as much trouble as anyone,” Boyer told The Sporting News.

At spring training with the Cardinals in 1960, Kline was impressive. In 28 innings pitched in exhibition games, his ERA was 0.64.

When the season began, it was a different story. Kline had a 5.06 ERA when he got his first Cardinals win, beating the Pirates on May 2, 1960, at St. Louis. Boxscore

Let’s make a deal

The satisfaction of beating his former team was short-lived. Kline lost six of his next seven decisions. He made his last start for the Cardinals on July 10 before being moved to the bullpen.

Kline finished the 1960 season with a 4-9 record and 6.04 ERA. Three of his wins were against the Pirates. He struggled both as a starter (3-7, 5.92) and as a reliever (1-2, 6.35).

In 117.2 innings pitched, Kline gave up 21 home runs. His average of allowing a home run every 5.6 innings was the highest in the National League in 1960.

The Cardinals (86-68) finished in third place, nine games behind the league champion Pirates (95-59). While Kline faltered with the Cardinals, Mizell, traded to the Pirates in May 1960 for second baseman Julian Javier, was 13-5 for Pittsburgh.

After the season, the Cardinals approached the Yankees and offered to trade pitcher Larry Jackson, catcher Hal Smith and Kline for pitchers Whitey Ford and Ryne Duren and catcher Elston Howard. The clubs “surveyed the pros and cons of such a trade” before the Yankees backed out, the Globe-Democrat reported.

The Cardinals also proposed sending Kline and Bob Gibson to the Senators for pitcher Bobby Shantz, but Washington preferred an offer from the Pirates.

Also, the Cubs and Cardinals discussed a swap of pitcher Moe Drabowsky for Kline but it didn’t get done.

Flummoxed by his inability to deal Kline, Devine said, “I realize his value is down, but I’m not going to throw him out the window.”

Spitball specialist

During the winter, Kline was hunting in Pennsylvania when a gun shell blew up in his face. Fragments of the brass shell lodged in each eye, but were removed without damaging Kline’s eyesight, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Kline reported to Cardinals spring training in 1961 and said he planned to work on a knuckleball. Unimpressed with the result, the Cardinals sold Kline’s contract to the Angels on April 11, 1961.

After stints with the Angels and Tigers, Kline thrived as a reliever for the Senators. In four years (1963-66) with them, he had 83 saves and a 2.54 ERA.

His turnaround came when he mastered the spitball, an illegal pitch. Sports Illustrated reported Kline had one of “the finest spitballs in the American League.” In his book “The Wrong Stuff,” Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee said, “Ron Kline had a great spitter.”

Kline pitched for nine teams (Pirates, Cardinals, Angels, Tigers, Senators, Twins, Giants, Red Sox and Braves) in 17 seasons. His career numbers: 114-144 record, 108 saves, 3.75 ERA.

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A grand start to his Cardinals career culminated with a grand slam for pitcher Brad Penny before an injury described as minor became something major.

On Dec. 7, 2009, the Cardinals signed Penny, a free agent, and projected him to join a 2010 starting rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia.

The move initially seemed to be a masterstroke by the Cardinals. Penny was 3-0 with an 0.94 ERA after four starts for them.

On May 21, 2010, three days before he turned 32, Penny hit a grand slam against ex-Cardinal Joel Pineiro of the Angels, but couldn’t continue pitching because of pain near his right shoulder. Originally described as a muscle strain, the injury turned out to be a muscle tear and Penny never played in another game for the Cardinals.

Hard thrower

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Penny followed the Cardinals as a boy.

“I grew up a Cardinals fan,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I grew up an Ozzie Smith fan.”

A pitcher at Broken Arrow High School, Penny was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fifth round of the 1996 amateur draft. He spent four seasons in the Diamondbacks’ farm system before he was traded to the Marlins.

In 2003, Penny was 14-10 for the Marlins and also won both his starts against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Marlins traded Penny to the Dodgers for outfielder Juan Encarnacion and others in July 2004.

A right-handed power pitcher, Penny thrived with the Dodgers and became part of the Hollywood scene. He dated actress Alyssa Milano and bought thoroughbred horses to race at Hollywood Park. One of his winners was named Excess Temptations.

Penny had back-to-back 16-win seasons for the Dodgers in 2006 and 2007, but his right shoulder ached in 2008 and he finished 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA. Dodgers coach Larry Bowa said Penny was out of shape, but Penny said, “I was hurt all year. I didn’t have one game where my shoulder didn’t hurt.”

Granted free agency, Penny rejected surgery, signed with the Red Sox and started a shoulder strengthening program. Penny made 24 starts for the 2009 Red Sox, consistently fell behind in counts and was 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA.

Released by the Red Sox in August 2009, Penny signed with the Giants and experienced a turnaround. He was 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in six starts for the Giants and entered free agency.

Learning new tricks

With three starting pitchers, Pineiro, Todd Wellemeyer and John Smoltz, becoming free agents, the Cardinals went shopping for a veteran to add to the rotation.

The Giants made a bid to keep Penny, but their one-year offer was tied to incentives. When the Cardinals proposed a one-year contract with a base salary of $7.5 million, plus a hotel suite on all road trips, Penny accepted.

“We’ve liked him ever since he was with Florida,” said Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Penny’s reputation was he threw as hard as he could and built high pitch counts. “There would be games where he would throw 18 or 20 straights fastballs,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the Boston Globe. “You just can’t overpower everybody.”

Duncan and catcher Yadier Molina worked to get Penny to throw fewer pitches and use a sinker, or split-fingered pitch, to get groundball outs rather than strikeouts.

When Penny fell behind in the count, Molina urged him to trust the sinker instead of throwing the predictable pitch, a fastball.

The results were encouraging. After Penny beat the Giants on April 25, Duncan said, “He won the game without throwing a single pitch as hard as he could. He thought his way through that game. He’s pitching. He threw strikes, but he rarely gave them what they wanted.”

Penny was 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA in April and the Post-Dispatch declared he “may be the most impressive starter thus far.”

Penny said Duncan “gives me things that I’ve never even been talked to about as far as groundball outs to flyball outs, hits to runs.”

Regarding Molina, Penny said, “What makes it real easy on you is having a guy like Yadi behind the plate. He’s a real important part of it.”

Hit or miss

Penny lost his first three decisions in May, but pitched poorly in only one of those games and had a 2.73 ERA entering his start against the Angels at St. Louis.

In the third inning, with the score tied at 4-4, the Cardinals had runners on second and third, two outs, when Pineiro issued an intentional walk to Skip Schumaker, bringing Penny to the plate.

Penny swung at the first pitch and hit it over the wall in left for a grand slam, his first big-league home run in seven years. Video

When Penny went out to toss his warmup pitches in the fourth, Duncan noticed something was wrong and stopped him from continuing. Boxscore

Penny told the Post-Dispatch he wasn’t injured on the home run swing. He said he felt soreness since his previous start versus the Reds and didn’t tell anyone.

The Cardinals placed Penny on the 15-day disabled list and expected him to be ready for the second half of the season.

On July 7, Penny was pitching a simulated game in Denver when he complained of renewed pain in the right shoulder. A week later, Penny revealed tissue was torn from the bone.

Unable to pitch the remainder of the season, he finished his short Cardinals stint at 3-4 with a 3.23 ERA.

After the season, Penny was granted free agency and signed with the Tigers, joining a rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Penny was 11-11 with a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts for the 2011 Tigers.

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The franchise of Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson gave Bryn Smith the most lucrative contract of any Cardinals pitcher.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 28, 1989, Smith, a free agent, signed a three-year $6 million contract with the Cardinals.

“It’s more money than I ever dreamed of,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Smith’s contract was the second-highest in Cardinals history, behind only shortstop Ozzie Smith, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Looking for a proven winner to join Joe Magrane (18-9 in 1989) and Jose DeLeon (16-12) in their starting rotation, the Cardinals chose Smith, 34, who produced six consecutive seasons of double-digit wins with the Expos but who also lost eight of his last nine decisions in 1989 and finished with a losing record (10-11).

Show time

Smith grew up in Santa Maria, Calif. His mother and father were introduced to one another by actress Jane Russell while working at RKO Pictures in Hollywood. Smith’s mother dated actor Cary Grant before she married.

Smith’s unusual first name was derived from the initials of his maternal grandfather, Baxter Robert Young Nisbet.

When Smith was 15, his mother took him to a Dodgers game and he decided he wanted to play baseball. He tried out for the high school team and discovered he could play.

Smith, 17, was selected by the Cardinals in the 49th round of the 1973 amateur draft but chose to enroll in junior college. A year later, he signed with the Orioles.

“I got $1,000 to sign and I spent half of it on an engagement ring and I went out and blew the rest,” Smith said.

He spent three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system, got traded to the Expos and made his major-league debut with them in 1981. His best season was in 1985 when he was 18-5 with a 2.91 ERA.

A fan of the rock group Rush, Smith joined them on tour for a week and credited the lead singer with teaching him how to deal with crowds.

A right-hander, Smith pitched to contact, issued few walks and relied on changing speeds. The palmball was a favorite pitch. “I’m not a power pitcher,” he said. “I have to be a control pitcher and make use of the park.”

Money ball

After finishing seven games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League East in 1989, the Cardinals decided to find a starting pitcher in the free agent market and focused on two Expos defectors, Smith and left-hander Mark Langston.

The Giants and Braves also were interested in Smith and the Angels wanted Langston. When the Yankees signed another Expos defector, free-agent pitcher Pascual Perez, to a three-year, $5.7 million contract in November 1989, it established the market value and prompted the Cardinals to make their offer to Smith.

“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Smith.

Soon after, Langston signed with the Angels for five years and $16 million.

Stung by the departures of Perez, Smith and Langston from their starting rotation, Expos owner Charles Bronfman told the Associated Press, “People are being financially irresponsible. I mean, you can have bidding for players, but you don’t have to be a damned fool about it. Right now, some people are.”

Noting Smith’s career record of 81-71, Expos president Claude Brochu said, “Bryn is a good, average pitcher. That’s what he is _ a .500 pitcher. If you triple his salary, it’s not suddenly going to make him a 20-game winner.”

Unfazed, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said Smith “probably has the best control of any pitcher in the National League. Whitey (Herzog) and I both think that with Bryn pitching in Busch Stadium, with an outstanding defense behind him, he can be a big winner.”

Injury issues

Smith made his Cardinals debut on April 10, 1990, against the Expos at St. Louis, got the win and drove in a run. Boxscore

A shoulder ailment prevented Smith from pitching from late July to early September and he finished the 1990 season at 9-8 with a 4.27 ERA.

In 1991, Smith got the start on Opening Day, earned a win against the Cubs in Chicago and went on to finish 12-9 with a 3.85 ERA. He led the 1991 Cardinals in wins (12), starts (31) and innings pitched (198.2).

The 1992 season was a bust for Smith. He made one start in April, had elbow surgery and was used as a reliever when he returned in September. Smith was 4-2 with a 4.64 ERA for the 1992 Cardinals, became a free agent after the season and signed with the Rockies.

In three seasons with St. Louis, Smith was 25-19 with a 4.06 ERA.

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Mark Petkovsek, barely clinging to the fringes of the major leagues, revived his pitching career with the Cardinals.

Twenty-five years ago, on Nov. 18, 1994, Petkovsek signed a minor-league contract with the Cardinals on his 29th birthday. Projected to spend the 1995 season with the Louisville farm club, Petkovsek was called up to the Cardinals when injuries depleted their pitching staff.

Given the opportunity, Petkovsek became a valuable, versatile Cardinals pitcher.

Long, hard road

Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, Petkovsek was the youngest of eight children. He excelled at multiple sports, went to the University of Texas and became a top pitcher. A right-hander, he had a 29-3 record in three seasons and his 15 wins in 1987 tied for the most in the nation among college pitchers.

Petkovsek was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 1987 amateur draft. Four years later, he made his debut with them in a start against the Yankees and was tagged for seven runs in 4.2 innings. He pitched in four games for the Rangers before being returned to the minors.

Granted free agency after the 1991 season, Petkovsek signed with the Pirates. In 1993, his lone season with them, Petkovsek was 3-0 with a 6.96 ERA in 26 relief appearances. He joined the Astros’ organization in 1994, spent the season with their Tucson farm club and pitched a no-hitter versus Colorado Springs.

Cardinals director of player development Mike Jorgensen decided to take a chance on Petkovsek and signed the free agent. “He’s not a dominating pitcher … He’s a control guy, kind of like Bob Tewksbury,” Jorgensen said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Dependable pitcher

Major-league players went on strike in August 1994 and remained out of work when spring training camps opened in February 1995. As a player signed to a minor-league contract and not on the 40-man Cardinals roster, Petkovsek was required to report. He was one of 55 pitchers, many of them replacement players, in Cardinals camp at St. Petersburg, Fla.

When the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule began, Petkovsek was one of about 10 Cardinals minor-leaguers who declined to participate in games with replacement players.

After the strike was settled in April 1995, Petkovsek was assigned to Louisville. He was 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in eight starts when the call came to join the Cardinals in May 1995.

Relying on a sinkerball and changeup, Petkovsek said, “I try to get ahead and get them out with as few pitches as possible.”

Put into the starting rotation, Petkovsek won three of his first four decisions, including a shutout of the Dodgers at St. Louis. Boxscore

“I never stopped believing,” Petkovsek said.

He led the 1995 Cardinals pitching staff in starts (21) and innings pitched (137.1), posting a 6-6 record and 4.00 ERA.

The next season, Petkovsek became what the Post-Dispatch called the Cardinals’ “good luck charm.” Used as a starter and reliever in 1996, Petkovsek was 11-2 with a 3.55 ERA for the Cardinals, who reached the postseason for the first time in nine years.

Petkovsek deflected credit for his role in the club’s success. “I’m not into this for the glamour,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d know what to do with the limelight if I got it.”

Petkovsek pitched four seasons (1995-98) for St. Louis and was 28-19 with two saves before he was traded to the Angels for catcher Matt Garrick.

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With one bold move, the Cardinals got a No. 1 starter for their rotation and a closer for the bullpen.

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 16, 1999, the Cardinals acquired pitchers Darryl Kile, Dave Veres and Luther Hackman from the Rockies for pitchers Manny Aybar, Jose Jimenez, Rich Croushore and infielder Brent Butler.

Kile, a bust with the Rockies, became the Cardinals’ ace. Veres, relying on a split-fingered pitch, brought stability to the closer’s role.

The trade was bold because, as Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We gave up an awful lot of young talent.” Five months earlier, Jimenez pitched a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks. Aybar became a premier prospect when he was 10-0 for the Cardinals’ top farm club in 1998.

As it turned out, the trade paid immediate dividends for the Cardinals. Kile and Veres filled two prominent roles and significantly helped the Cardinals return to the postseason in 2000 for the first time in four years.

Ups and downs

Kile was obtained by the Cardinals two weeks before he turned 31. He made his major-league debut in 1991 with the Astros and developed into a consistent starter for them. In 1997, Kile was 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA for the Astros. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Rockies.

The move to mile-high Denver was a disaster for Kile. When his curveball flattened out in the rarefied air of Coors Field, he tried to improvise by making perfect pitches and lost both his groove and his confidence.

In 1999, he was 8-13 with a 6.61 ERA in 32 starts. One of his few good performances was on April 29, 1999, when he pitched a complete game in a 6-2 Rockies win against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

“Kile just wasn’t a good pitcher at Coors Field,” said Jim Leyland, manager of the 1999 Rockies. “Most guys aren’t. He just didn’t trust his stuff in that ballpark.”

Kile was 5-3 with a 7.44 ERA at Coors Field in 1999, but he also was bad on the road _ 3-10 with a 5.89 ERA, an indication he “just lost his confidence,” Jocketty said.

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote, “Kile’s road stats essentially are irrelevant. His confidence was shot because of the battering he took at Coors. Once a pitcher’s confidence is punctured, it doesn’t matter if he’s pitching in Coors, Busch Stadium or Yellowstone National Park. He will be ineffective.”

Time for a change

The Cardinals were convinced Kile would regain his confidence and effectiveness if he pitched his home games in St. Louis.

In seven seasons with the Astros, Kile was 71-65. In two seasons with the Rockies, he was 21-30. Kile impressed the Cardinals by taking ownership of his poor Rockies record rather than blaming the conditions.

“When you make good pitches, you get outs,” Kile said. “You make bad pitches, you don’t, no matter where you pitch.”

Miklasz concluded, “There is nothing wrong with Kile’s arm or attitude. His mind and his curveball should benefit from the switch to St. Louis.”

Kile’s stoicism aside, Veres said pitching in Denver was different than anywhere else. “A bad pitch there doesn’t go to the wall,” Veres said. “It goes 20 feet over the wall.”

Stepping up

Veres was 33 when the Cardinals acquired him and he was relatively new to the closer’s role. In 1993, he was in his eighth minor-league season and headed nowhere when Astros instructor Brent Strom taught him to throw a split-fingered pitch. Veres mastered it and got to the big leagues for the first time with the Astros in 1994 at age 27.

Used as a setup reliever by the Astros and Expos, Veres was made a closer with the Rockies in 1999 and thrived in the role, earning 31 saves.

When Dennis Eckersley departed for free agency after the 1997 season, the Cardinals tried Jeff Brantley and Ricky Bottalico as the closers without much success. Veres was their next choice.

Success in St. Louis

At spring training in 2000, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan was impressed by what he saw from Kile, who was 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his first 10 innings in exhibition games.

“He doesn’t act like he’s lacking in confidence,” Duncan said.

Kile was named the Opening Day starter for the Cardinals in 2000, beat the Cubs and went on to post a 20-9 record. Veres had 29 saves.

In three seasons with the Cardinals, Kile was 41-24. On June 22, 2002, Kile, 33, died of a heart attack caused by blocked arteries.

Veres appeared in 71 games in each of his three Cardinals seasons and earned 48 saves and 11 wins.

Luther Hackman, the other pitcher acquired in the deal with the Rockies, also pitched in three seasons for St. Louis and was 6-6 with one save.

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The Cardinals began to rebuild their starting pitching rotation for the 21st century with the acquisition of a Cy Young Award winner.

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 11, 1999, the Cardinals traded catcher Alberto Castillo, reliever Lance Painter and pitching prospect Matt DeWitt to the Blue Jays for Pat Hentgen.

It was an important deal for the Cardinals, who were looking to become contenders after three years (1997-99) of failing to qualify for the postseason. Better pitching was one of their major needs.

Hentgen, 31, achieved double-digit win totals for the Blue Jays in seven consecutive seasons (1993-99) and received the American League Cy Young Award in 1996.

After acquiring Hentgen, the Cardinals added pitchers such as Darryl Kile, Andy Benes and reliever Dave Veres, and, along with the emergence of rookie Rick Ankiel, the upgrades made a difference.

After finishing 75-86 in 1999 with a starting rotation primarily of Darren Oliver, Kent Bottenfield, Jose Jimenez, Kent Mercker and Garrett Stephenson, the Cardinals in 2000 finished 95-67, won a division title and reached the National League Championship Series with a rebuilt rotation of Kile, Hentgen, Stephenson, Ankiel and Benes.

Reliable starter

Hentgen, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with the Blue Jays in September 1991, started and won Game 3 of the 1993 World Series for them against the Phillies and got the Cy Young Award in 1996 when he was 20-10 and led the American League in innings pitched (265.7), complete games (10) and shutouts (three).

He made 183 consecutive starts for the Blue Jays without missing a turn before shoulder tendinitis ended the streak in August 1998.

After a slow start to the 1999 season, Hentgen regained strength in his shoulder. Though he no longer had an overpowering fastball, he relied on location to frustrate batters. He often put pitches on the outside corner to induce groundballs and, if batters edged closer to the plate, he could deliver a pitch inside.

In August 1999, Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi decided to have Hentgen skip a turn in the rotation, but didn’t inform the pitcher. Hentgen learned of the decision from a newspaper reporter. A month later, Hentgen and Fregosi had a heated argument in a closed-door clubhouse meeting, the National Post reported.

Hentgen finished the 1999 season with an 11-12 record and 4.79 ERA in 34 starts, but was 5-5 with a 2.87 ERA after Aug. 1.

The Blue Jays shopped him and the Tigers expressed interest, but the Cardinals made the best offer. The Blue Jays wanted Painter to replace left-hander reliever Graeme Lloyd, who departed for free agency.

Good fit

Hentgen was the fifth Cy Young Award winner acquired by the Cardinals since the honor was initiated in 1956. The others were Bruce Sutter (who won the award with the 1979 Cubs), Fernando Valenzuela (1981 Dodgers), Rick Sutcliffe (1984 Cubs) and Dennis Eckersley (1992 Athletics). Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter are the only pitchers to receive the award as Cardinals.

The Cardinals had talked to the Dodgers about a trade for pitcher Ismael Valdes before making the deal for Hentgen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We’ve been working on this deal for a long time,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We had tried to acquire him earlier in the year, but we weren’t able to. Finally, we got it worked out.”

Jocketty described Hentgen as a pitcher with “great upside.”

“I’m very confident he’s going to be a horse for us,” Jocketty said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Hentgen reminded him of Todd Stottlemyre, a former Blue Jays pitcher who excelled for the Athletics and Cardinals with Dave Duncan as his pitching coach.

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz predicted Hentgen and Duncan would work well together. “Hentgen appears to be the ideal Duncan project,” Miklasz wrote.

The Cardinals also were seeking a catcher and Hentgen recommended his 1999 Blue Jays teammate, Mike Matheny. When the Blue Jays released Matheny after acquiring Castillo in the Hentgen deal, the Cardinals followed Hentgen’s advice and signed Matheny.

Big fix

When Hentgen struggled with command of his pitches early in spring training with the 2000 Cardinals, Duncan studied video of the performances and discovered a flaw in Hentgen’s delivery, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Instead of going straight to the plate, I’m going toward the on-deck circle,” Hentgen said. “It’s as if I’m pitching to the plate five seats over.”

As a result, “the arm just drags, so I had nothing on the ball and no location,” Hentgen said.

Hentgen made his Cardinals debut with a start in the second game of the 2000 season and got the win in a 10-4 victory over the Cubs at St. Louis. He retired 11 consecutive batters from the second through fifth innings. Boxscore

On Sept. 14, 2000, Hentgen beat the Cubs again, pitching a three-hit shutout at St. Louis. Boxscore

“He kept the ball down and got ahead in the count,” said Matheny.

Duncan said, “His delivery was perfectly consistent from start to finish … When you’re getting called third strikes on good hitters, you’re executing your pitches.”

Hentgen finished with a 15-12 record for the 2000 Cardinals, winning six of eight decisions from Aug. 2 to Sept. 14, and was second on the staff in games started (33). He also started and lost Game 5 of the 2000 National League Championship Series when the Mets clinched the pennant.

Granted free agency after the postseason, Hentgen signed with the Orioles.

In 14 seasons in the big leagues, Hentgen was 131-112.

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