Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Octavio Martinez, 2001 Topps Traded Chrome #T230

Today's weird card is different than the mangled horrors I've been showcasing the past few days. This is more weird in the "Who decided to include him?" sense. Octavio Martinez was the Orioles' 10th round draft pick in 1999 out of Bakersfield College, a junior college in Southern California. He hit a lofty .237 in his rookie league debut, though he did gun down 56% of attempted base stealers. In 2000, he hit .387 and slugged .591 in 181 at-bats in the rookie-level Appalachian League, and that was apparently enough for the 20-year-old to get his own card in the updated series of Topps' flagship product. As you may have guessed, this honor from the card company was a little hasty. His average plunged to .217 in his first extended action at Class A Frederick the following year. He would spend seven years total (1999-2005) in the Baltimore farm system, including just 41 total games at AAA. He had a similar lack of results in the Pittsburgh and Los Angeles organizations over the subsequent two seasons. In fact, Octavio never played more than 98 games in a season. He's been kicking around the independent leagues since 2008. In fact, he plied his trade with the Atlantic League's Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2009-2010. But he never did play for the Orioles.

This brings me to one of the guilty pleasures I've found in Spring Training: the very notion of the non-roster invite, the former big league star or starter or even fringe player who's clinging to that last shred of hope. You never know who's going to turn up, and it's a harmless nostalgia trip to see them suit up in an Orioles uniform for a few weeks.

This year, the O's "Oh Yeah, That Guy Squad" includes pitchers Ryan Drese (who won 14 games for Buck Showalter's Rangers in 2004 and last pitched in the majors in 2006) and Josh Rupe (only full MLB season was 2008 with Texas), catcher Michel Hernandez (short stints with the Yankees in 2003 and the Rays in 2008, 2009), infielder Nick Green (batted .273 in 95 games for the Braves in 2004, has hit .224 for 6 teams since), and 36-year-old outfielder Randy Winn (Tampa Bay's lone All-Star in 2002). The chances are slim for any of them to spend time on the 25-man roster in 2011, but someone should recognize that for a short while they were Orioles.

Delving further into the Nostalgia Cave, I remember former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman going to camp with the Birds in 1994. The 34-year-old had spent all of 1993 at the Yankees' AAA Columbus affiliate and was far removed from his back-to-back All-Star appearances in 1985 and 1986. The veteran collected only 4 hits in 25 spring at-bats, and chose to retire rather than back up Gregg Zaun at Rochester.

Three years later, Kelly Gruber came out retirement to put on the black and orange. He'd started at third base for the Blue Jays from 1987-1992, making two All-Star teams and having a career year in 1990 (.274, 36 2B, 31 HR, 118 RBI). But he hung up his spikes in 1993 when a degenerative disk condition in his neck limited him to 18 games with the Angels. He recovered from an 0-for-16 start to hit .256 in Grapefruit League play but was edged out for a utility job by Jeff Reboulet. The O's were sufficiently impressed with Gruber to assign him to AAA Rochester, and he saw time at first base, second base, and in the outfield. Injuries limited Kelly to 38 games. He hit only .250 with a .327 on-base percentage and .382 slugging, and retired for good.

Do you have any memories of other Spring Training invites who couldn't quite make it to Baltimore? I'm all ears...or eyes.


Ryan said...

I had no idea Kelly Gruber played in the O's Organization!

drew said...

Well, there was that failed Jim Palmer comeback.

Kevin said...

Ryan - If you blinked, you missed him.

Drew - If you want to read more about Palmer's aborted comeback, Roar from 34 found some details about it.

JT said...

Jayson Werth 2000

Source http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com