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Classic Player Profile: Geremi Gonzalez

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Profile of the Devil Rays starter who was the best pitcher on the team in 2003

Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Player: Geremi Gonzalez

Born: January 8th, 1975 (would have been 39 years old)

Tenure: 2003 - 2004

Position: SP and MR

Drafted: Wasn't drafted, signed as an Amateur Free Agent on October 21st, 1991 by the Chicago Cubs

Start of Tenure: Signed as a Free Agent on November 20th, 2002 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays

End of Tenure: Released on November 23rd, 2004 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Teams: Chicago Cubs, *Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Boston Red SoxNew York MetsMilwaukee Brewers, and the *Toronto Blue Jays

* - Didn't appear in a MLB game

Retired: Deceased, died on May 25th, 2008 at the age of 33 (Career Span of 16 years, 1992 - 2008)

Rays Stat Line: 2.5 WAR, 6-16 (W-L), 4.66 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 36 G, 206.2 IP,119 SO, 5.2 SO/9

1991-1995: Early Career Cub

The Chicago Cubs signed Geremi Gonzalez on October 21, 1991. Gonzalez at the time of the signing was only 16. He would start his professional career at the age of 17 the next Summer in the Arizona League with the ArizonaRockies/Cubs. The team contained players from both the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs organizations. Only 1 other player that was on that team, would reach the majors.  Gonzalez didn't put up great numbers in his 1st season in the U.S. but he was only 17.

In 1993, Gonzalez was assigned to the next level in the Cubs' system, Rookie class Huntington in the Appalachian League. At the age of 18, Gonzalez was the youngest player on the team. In 12 starts, he went 3-9 with an ERA of 6.25 in 67.2 IP. In 1994, the Cubs assigned Gonzalez to their A- class team in the New York Penn-League, the Williamsport Cubs that were Managed by Sandy Alomar. In 16 games/12 starts for Williamsport, Gonzalez went 4-6, including a complete game shutout, with an ERA of 4.24 in 80.2 IP. He was considered Williamport's best pitcher and was promoted mid-season to the Cubs' Class A team in the Midwest League, the Peoria Chiefs. In Peoria, Gonzalez played with Cabrera, current Houston Astros' Manager Bo Porter, and framing extraordinaire Jose Molina. Gonzalez struggled a little in Peoria, in 13 starts, he went 1-7 with a 5.55 ERA in 71.1 IP. In 1995, the Cubs changed their affiliates and their Class A team in the Midwest League, switching from Peoria to Rockford. Gonzalez made 12 starts for Rockford, before being promoted to the Cubs' A+ team, the Daytona Cubs. Gonzalez made 2 starts for Daytona before being converted into a reliever. Gonzalez shined in his new role and finished the season having pitched in 19 games, with a record of 5-1, and an ERA of 1.22 in 44.1 IP for Daytona. He also recorded 4 saves.

1996-1997: From Orlando to The Show

The Cubs had Gonzalez spend spend the entire 1996 season with their AA team, the Orlando Cubs in the Southern League. Gonzalez was moved back into the starting rotation and put up terrific numbers, especially in May. In 5 May starts, he was 5-0 with a 0.73 ERA. He named the Southern League's player of the month with his performance, he was also named a Southern League All-Star. Unfortunately, Gonzalez wouldn't pitch in the All-Star game due to stained right elbow. He was placed on the DL on July 6th and returned on August 10th. Gonzalez finished the 1996 season with the best numbers of his career. He went 6-3 with a 3.34 ERA and 97 IP in 17 games/14 starts.

In 1997, Gonzalez was assigned to the Cubs' AAA team, the Iowa Cubs. The Iowa Cubs featured plenty of future big leaguers such as inaugural Devil Ray Miguel Cairo, Miguel BatistaJustin Speier, and the #3 ranked prospect in the MLB, Kerry Wood. Gonzalez made 10 starts for Iowa going 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA, he also posted the highest SO/9 rate of his career with 8.42.

On May 27th, 1997 the Chicago Cubs called up the 22 year old Gonzalez to be in their starting rotation. He made his 1st start that night in Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA against the Pirates. His mound opponent for that game would be the Pirates' Jon Lieber.

Doug Glanville led off the game for the Cubs with a triple to right.  Tommy Houston hit a ground ball to Tony Womack, who fielded it cleanly and threw to the Kevin Young for the out. Glanville was able to score on the play. Lieber would get Mark Grace to ground out and struck out the Sammy Sosa to retire the side. In the bottom of the 1st, Geremi Gonzalez's 1st MLB opponents would be Tony Womack, Adrian Brown, and Kevin Young. Gonzalez's 1st MLB pitch was a ball, and Womack eventually worked the count full. On the 7th pitch of the AB, Womack hit a chopper up the middle, the Rey Sanchez, backhanded the ball and threw to Grace for the out. Gonzalez would retire the next batter, Brown quickly. on the 2nd pitch of the AB, Brown chopped a ball right back to Gonzalez, who threw Brown out at 1st for the 2nd out of the inning. Gonzalez would face Young next. With an 0-1 count, Young took Gonzalez's next pitch and deposited it the right field seats for a Solo-HR to tie the game at 1. Gonzalez would walk the Midre Cummings, but than retire Joe Randa on a fly ball.

Jason Kendall, would double to start the 2nd and  Jose Guillen would single to put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Gonzalez than intentionally walked the Dale Sveum to load the bases for Jon Lieber. Gonzalez had to fight Lieber, and after 10 pitches was finally able to strike him out for his 1st MLB SO. That brought the top of the order up (Womack), with the bases loaded and only 1 out. With a 2-1 count, Womack chopped a ball to Sanchez who threw to Grace to record the out. Mark Grace, was than able to throw out Sveum at 2nd after he rounded the base for the 3rd out, though Kendall did score from 3rd to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Gonzalez was able to have a clean 3rd inning, he did allow a single to Young, but immediately picked him off.

Gonzalez wouldn't run into anymore trouble until the bottom of the 6th, but the Cubs had given him a solid 7-2 lead. He struck out Cummings to start the inning, but than allowed a triple to Randa. Kendall would follow that up, with a RBI single up the middle to make it 7-3, Cubs. Chicago's Manager, Jim Riggleman decided that Gonzalez had gone far enough and replaced him with Turk Wendell, who immediately got Guillen to ground into a double play to end the inning and Gonzalez's line. The Cubs would go on to win 8-7, giving Gonzalez his 1st MLB win. Gonzalez's final line on the night; W, 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, and 6 SO.

In Gonzalez's next start on June 1st, he shutout the Cincinnati Reds for 5 innings, and came away with his 2nd win. His 1st loss came from Montreal, he pitched well, but Jim Bullinger pitched better for the Expos, throwing a complete game, 6 hit shutout. On June 23rd, Gonzalez made a brilliant start against the St Louis Cardinals. Gonzalez pitched a complete game, 4 hit shutout, only walking 1 and striking out 5. Gonzalez remained with the Cubs the rest of the season, earning the most wins of any pitcher on the team. He was 1st Cubs' rookie to do that since Ken Holtzman in 1966. He finished 9th in the NL's RoY behind; 1. Scott Rolen 2. Livan Hernandez 3. Matt Morris 4. Rich Loiselle 5. Andruw Jones 6. Vladimir Guerrero 7. Jose Guillen and 8. Brett Tomko. Gonzalez's 1997 season line: 11-9, 4.25 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 23 G, and 144 IP

1998-2002: Fighting for a Place

In 1998, Gonzalez won the 3rd spot in the Cubs' rotation, behind Kevin Tapani and Mark Clark.  Unfortunately, Gonzalez didn't fare too well in his 1st start of the season on April 2nd in Miami against the Florida Marlins.  Gonzalez walked the Marlins' lead off hitter, Cliff Floyd.  He walked Edgar Renteria on 4 pitches.  Ryan Jackson followed the walk with a single to the left that scored Floyd and advanced Renteria to 3rd.  That brought up Gary Sheffield.  On a 2-2 count, Sheffield launched Gonzalez's pitch over the wall in left for a 3-run HR to make it 4-0, Marlins.  Gonzalez than gave up a double to Mark Kotsay, followed by back to back walks to Charles Johnson and Craig Counsell, to load the bases for Josh Booty, with none out.  The Cubs' Manager, Jim Riggleman, had finally seen enough of Gonzalez and replaced him with Amaury Telemaco.  The Cubs did go on to win the game 8-7, thanks in part to Telemaco's strong relief outing.  Gonzalez's final line on the day;  0 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, and 0 SO.

Gonzalez followed up his horrid start, with some quality outings.  His 1st win of the season came on April 19th, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Gonzalez went 8 innings in the game, allowing only 1 run.  On May 9th, in the 2nd game of a double header against the San Francisco Giants, Gonzalez pitched a 6 hit shutout to record his 3rd win of the season.  Gonzales did have some poor outings, but he was still only 23 years old was showing a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, in late July, Gonzalez injured his right elbow and was placed on the DL on July 25th.  It was discovered he would need Tommy John surgery and underwent the procedure on August 21st.  Gonzalez was done for the 1998 season, and at least the beginning of 1999.  He finished 1998 with a record of 7-7, with a 5.32 and a 4.62 FIP in 20 games and 110 IP.

Gonzales returned in April of 1999, rehabbing his way back up the Cubs' system.  He made 2 starts for A+ Daytona, 3 starts for AA West Tennessee, and 3 starts for AAA Iowa.  Sadly though, Gonzalez still felt the discomfort in his right elbow, and again, needed to have Tommy John surgery.  Gonzalez underwent the procedure on July 2nd and ended his 1999 season.

2000 just brought more disappointment for Gonzalez.  He made 5 rehab appearances before tearing his ACL and requiring right knee surgery, that ended that season and sidelined him for all of 2001.  On March 13th, 2001 the Cubs released Gonzalez.  He spent the entire season recovering from the surgery.  On December 18th, 2001 the Texas Rangers signed Gonzalez to a minor league deal.  Gonzalez spent the season with the Rangers' AAA team, the Oklahoma Redhawks.  Gonzalez pitched mostly out of the bullpen and did decently for Oklahoma and in total, made 46 appearances, but was never able to earn the call up to Texas.  On October 15th, 2002 he was granted free agency.

2003: Devil Rays Glory Days & Sosa's Corked Bat

On November 20th, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed Gonzalez to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.  During Spring Training, Gonzalez was was among the 1st wave to be cut or reassigned to minor league camp.  He accepted the reassignment and opened the season with Tampa's AAA team, the Durham Bulls.  The Bulls that year featured prospects, such as Dewon Brazelton, Jon Switzer, Antonio Perez, and Doug Waechter.  Gonzalez appeared in 7 games, started 6 of them and pitched rather well.

On May 17th, the Devil Rays designated SS, Felix Escalona, for assignment and called up Gonzalez to take his place on the roster.  Gonzalez made his 1st MLB start since July of 1998, later that night against the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards.  He went 7 innings, allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and stuckout 9, he also walked 2. Unfortunately, Tampa could only muster 3 hits against Baltimore, and Orioles' pitchers Pat Hentgen, Buddy Groom, and Jorge Julio combined a shutout.

Gonzalez was able to stick in Tampa's rotation though for the rest of the year, and he became the Devil Rays' most consistent starter.  He didn't allow more than 3 runs in 17 of  his 24 starts.

On June 3rd, Gonzalez would make his return to Wrigley field as he would take on his old team, the Cubs.

Mark Prior got the start for Chicago, and ended the inning quickly only throwing 8 pitches, despite a Marlon Anderson single.  It was an eventful bottom half though.  The Cubs' leadoff batter, Mark Grudzielanek, was hit by a pitch.  Alex Gonzalez followed that with a double down the right field line to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  That brought up Corey Patterson, who Gonzalez struck out.

Sammy Sosa was now next, and on a 3-2 count, he shattered his bat and sent a ground ball to Anderson at 2nd, who threw to the Travis Lee.  Grudzielanek appeared to score, then  HP Umpire, Tim McClelland, noticed something in Sosa's bat.

The umpires converged and confirmed that bat had a cork and declared Sosa out and the runners were to reset. Sosa was also ejected from the game.

Sammy Sosa's corked bat incident

Gonzalez would get out of the inning with no runs scored, by getting Moises Alou to popout.  Gonzalez had pitched a shutout until the bottom of the 6th, when with 1 out, he allowed back to back doubles to Hee-Seop Choi and Ramon Martinez to make the game 2-1, Cubs.  Gonzalez would strike out Paul Bako and Prior to end the inning.  In the 7th, Al Martin pinch hit for him to end his night.  Jesus Colome would come on in relief.  He pitched a scoreless 7th, but allowed the Cubs to tie the game in the 8th.  In the bottom of the 9th, Al Levine came on for Tampa Bay.  With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Levine threw a wild pitch to allow the winning run to score and give the Cubs the victory, 3-2.

Later on in the season, on August 31 in a game in Oakland, Gonzalez became the 1st player ever to be ejected, but still be credited with a complete game.  He was ejected in the top of the ninth, and Tampa Bay would go on to lose 4-3.  At the end of the season, Gonzalez's final line was 6-11, with a 3.91 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 156.1 IP, 25 G, and 97 SO.

2004 - Fall from Grace

In 2004, Gonzalez was given the 2nd spot in the rotation behind Opening Day starter Victor Zambrano by Tampa's Manager, Lou Pinella.  The Devil Rays would begin the 2004 season in Japan, playing 2 games against the New York Yankees. Tampa won the 1st game on the 30th, 8-3.  Zambrano got the win over Mike Mussina.

On Gonzalez's start, Tampa was considered the home team at the Tokyo Dome.  The game started at 7:11 pm in Japan and Gonzalez struggled.  He hit Derek Jeter with a pitch to start the game, but followed the up by getting Hideki Matsui to fly out to right, than he got Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double play to end the inning.  The Devil Rays would score 1st, when in the bottom half, Carl Crawford led off with a single off of Kevin Brown.  Crawford than stole 2nd during Damian Rolls' AB, Rolls would strike out.  Rocco Baldelli flew out to right, to bring up Aubrey Huff.  On a 2-2 pitch, Huff hit a line drive single to right that scored Crawford to give Tampa a 1-0 lead.  Gonzalez pitched  a 1-2-3 2nd inning, and got the 1st batter in the 3rd, but than allowed a single to Kenny Lofton.  He walked Jeter with a full count, than allowed a single to Matsui that scored Lofton to tie the game.  Gonzalez got Rodriguez to ground out to end the inning.  Gonzalez walked Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield to begin the 4th, to bring up Jorge Posada.  On the 1st pitch of Posada's AB, he lined a ball to left that Crawford made a great play on.  Crawford was able to double Giambi off of 2nd also, to make it a double play.  Now Sheffield on 1st and 2 outs, Tony Clark was at the plate.  Gonzalez would give up a 2-run HR to Clark to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

In the top of the 5th, Gonzalez walked Lofton to lead off the inning, he would advance to 2nd on a wild pitch.  Up next was Jeter, who chopped a ball to short.  Julio Lugo fielded the ball and caught Lofton in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd, eventually being tagged out by Rey Sanchez.  Hideki Matsui followed the gaffe by Lofton, by hitting a 2-run HR to give the Yankees, a 5-1 lead.  Gonzalez would retire Rodriguez with a fly ball, than he was replaced by Damian Moss.  Tampa eventually lost 12-1, Gonzalez's final line, looked like this;  4.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, and 1 SO.

Unfortunately, Gonzalez would struggle, he lost his starting job after a poor outing on May 12th against the Texas, where he only lasted 3 innings.  He was moved the bullpen and made his 1st relief appearance on May 18th, in Boston against the Red Sox.  A day later, on May 19th, Gonzalez and Chad Gaudin were optioned to AAA Durham, Rob Bell and Jason Standridge were called up to take their places.  Gonzalez pitched decently for Durham, earning a spot start for Tampa on July 5th in the 2nd game of a double header against Baltimore.

Gonzalez lasted 6 innings in that game, but gave up 8 runs, 6 earned.  Three days later, he was optioned back to Durham.  On August 4th, Tampa called Gonzalez back up and tried using him out of the pen.  Gonzalez had 1 good outing on August 7th, against Seattle, going 2.2 IP without allowing a run, but 4 days later against Boston, Gonzalez gave up 6 runs in 5 innings.  On August 13th, Gonzalez was sent back down.  His final line on the 2004 season, would look like this;  0-5, 6.97 ERA, 5.87 FIP, 11 G, and 50.1 IP

Gonzalez was released by Tampa Bay on November 23rd.

2005-2008: Four Tries at Success, Untimely Death

Gonzalez signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox on January 17th, 2005.  Gonzalez didn't make the team out of Spring Training and was reassigned to Boston's AAA team, the Pawtucket Red Sox.  He was in Pawtucket for the month of April, and impressed enough to earn a call up in May.  He struggled in a couple of starts for Boston, eventually removed from the rotation, than optioned back to Pawtucket at the end of May.  Gonzalez was called back up in July and used strictly in the bullpen.  He had many solid outings, but the occasional bad 1, which killed his numbers.  He finished the 2005 season, still on Boston's roster, and his line looked like this;  2-1, 6.11 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 28 G, and 56 IP

On October 14th, 2005 Gonzalez became a free agent and on January 24th, 2006 he was signed to a minor league deal by the New York Mets.  Gonzalez again didn't make the MLB roster and was assigned to the Mets' AAA team, the Norfolk Tides.  Gonzalez put up solid numbers in 6 starts in Norfolk and was called up in early May.  He struggled in 3 starts with New York, when on May 26th, Gonzalez was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Mike Adams.  Gonzalez did pretty well in the Brewers' bullpen, and heading into September he was a useful arm for them.  In September though, he allowed 14 runs in 3.1 September innings.  He was released on October 12th by Milwaukee and his final line for 2006, was this;  4-2, 5.79 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 24 G, and 56 IP.

On November 10th, 2006 Gonzalez signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.  He failed to make the Opening Day roster though, and after a month in AAA Syracuse, Gonzalez requested his release.  Upon his release, Gonzalez went to play in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, that's where he finished the 2007 season.  Unable to find another MLB job the next season, Gonzalez went home to Venezuela.

Unfortunately and very sadly, on May 25th, 2008 at the age of 33, Geremi Gonzalez was struck by lightning and killed instantly.

There were some odd circumstances surrounding Gonzalez's death when personal items Gonzalez had with him at his time of death were being sold online.  His body would eventually be exhumed.  That's the last info I can find on his death, a very unfortunate end for a player who once showed a lot of promise, but was cut down by injuries

Career Stat Line: 2.4 WAR, 30-35 (W-L), 4.93 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 131 G, 572.2 IP, 354 SO, 5.6 SO/9