This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In the final installment of the Ghosts of Tampa Bay Rays Pitching Past, we call upon the Ghost of the Wade Boggs Knuckler to wrap up the opening series of the 2009 season.
Wade Boggs had a great career with the Red Sox, Yankees, and even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during his final two seasons. He was busy manning the third base bag during his Tampa Bay tenure due to the number of subpar pitchers that were trotted out to the mound on a daily basis. One of these pitchers spectacularly imploded when throwing for Tampa Bay. The unforgettable Dave Eiland was displaying his usual array of suck on August 10, 1999 versus the Baltimore Orioles when a light bulb must have gone off in Wade Boggs’s noggin. Boggs watched as Eiland’s replacements unraveled, as well as the supporting defensive cast behind him. When Mickey Calloway came in, the Orioles tacked on a few runs before breaking the game wide open in the 6th with the help of sloppy Devil Rays fielding. It appeared the worse was over when Mike Duvall came in to close out the sixth and settled down the O’s in the seventh inning. Unfortunately, after an error in the eighth Duvall quickly unraveled with a wild pitch and issued a couple of walks. A single, another error and a hits batsman would lead to the return of the Wade Boggs Knuckler to the pitching mound.
Before Duvall, Boggs likely had seen enough anyway. He probably told the skipper about his one inning pitching stint for the Yankees a few years earlier. He must have mentioned that he had even struck out Todd Greene! He obviously had a point, if this conversation actually took place. How much worse could a future hall of fame third baseman be than what had already been on the rubber that day? Devil Rays skipper Larry Rothschild probably conceded that there wasn’t much worse that could happen that day, considering his team was twenty-two and a half games out of first place.
Boggs ended up with the best pitching line that day. Boggs came into the 7th inning with the bases loaded and closed out the inning without letting any more runs in. He made quick work of the first 2 hitters in the 8th before a double and a pair of singles game Boggs a crooked ERA for the day. With his final out, he retired Albert Belle on a fly ball. I think it’s a safe bet that nobody expected to say that Wade Boggs was easily the best pitcher for the Devil Rays on August 10th, 1999.
Here’s to hoping that by the 8th inning of today’s game, the Rays pitching coach is looking at third baseman Evan Longoria to rise to the occasion to stop the brutality being put forth by the Red Sox offense.