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First trades in Tampa Bay Rays history: “With the Baltimore Orioles”

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This one doesn’t end happily.

Jason Johnson

March 29th, 1999

Tampa Bay Devil Rays trade RHP Jason Johnson to the Baltimore Orioles for OF Danny Clyburn Jr. and a Player to be Named Later (Boliver Volquez)

Towards the end of spring training in the Rays sophomore season, they decided to trade away right-handed pitcher Jason Johnson, who had been a member of their starting rotation for a couple of months during the 1998 campaign. Unfortunately, suffered an injured back in June and spend the rest of the year on the disabled list.

Tampa Bay picked Johnson up during the expansion draft, selecting him from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johnson’s determination to play professional baseball is incredible when you consider the fact that he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 11. Despite that life-altering news, Johnson persevered. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an undrafted free agent and began his professional career, eventually making his major league debut in 1997.

The Rays sent Johnson to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for outfielder Danny Clyburn Jr. and a player to be named later.

Clyburn had been named the Orioles 13th best prospect following the 1998 season. Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd round of the 1992 draft, Clyburn had already been traded twice prior to being dealt to Tampa Bay.

Bolivar Volquez, an 18 year old amateur signee who played infield, was thrown into the deal.

Aftermath

Johnson would go on to be a very serviceable starting pitcher for the next several years. He he did struggle, thanks to command issues, during his first two years in Baltimore. But, in 2001, he emerged as an effective back of the rotation starter. His development into a top of the line starter continued for the next few years, during which time he became the first player to wear an insulin pump while actually on the field. Prior to that, Johnson had to routinely check his blood sugar during games.

Following the 2003 season, Johnson signed with the Detroit Tigers — with whom he first wore the on-field insulin pump — where he enjoyed the best years of his career. Over the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Johnson accrued 5.6 fWAR with Detroit. He would pitch in the majors through the 2008 season (with a 2007 stop in Japan), but injuries, including cancer of the retina, took their toll. He was out of baseball following the 2013 season.

Danny Clyburn meanwhile played in 28 games for the Devil Rays in 1999, hitting .198/.270/.358 with 3 HR over 89 plate appearances. It is not documented what happened immediately following his departure from the team after the 1999 season, but Clyburn popped back up in the independent leagues in 2002 and played there through the 2004 season.

Danny Clyburn #41...

Tragically, after his playing days were long over, Clyburn would be shot and killed in his hometown of Lancaster, North Carolina by a childhood friend. He was 37.

In 2017, he finally received a proper gravestone following a fundraising campaign by friends and co-workers of Clyburn’s father.

Bolivar Volquez would never surpass the Single-A level for the Rays, even after trying to convert from being a short stop to being a pitcher, and would be released following the 2004 season.