Though he will be forever remembered as a member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that ended the 86 year World Champion drought, the term “Journeyman Reliever” fits Alan Embree like a glove. The veteran has come out of the bullpen for ten different teams over the last sixteen seasons. The lefty turns 41 today.
Alan Embree was born on January 23rd, 1970 in The Dalles, Oregon. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 1989 Amateur Draft. His professional career began as a starting pitcher and after two successful years in the minor leagues, was given a shot with four starts with the Indians during the 1992 season. In his first start, he allowed a home run to to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. His 7.00 ERA during his cup coffee resulted in a return to the minor leagues for the 1993 season. He sustained a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the entire ’93 season aside from one appearance.
Following a sub par performance as a starter in 1994, Embree began the transition to a relief pitcher. With a 0.89 ERA out of the bullpen in 1995, he was summoned to the big leagues in July of that year. Though his ERA was north of 5.00 for in both 1995 and 1996, Embree had reached the big leagues for good. Embree helped the Cleveland Indians to the postseason during the late 1990’s, pitching in the 1995 World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Prior to the 1997 season, Alan Embree was included in the trade that sent Kenny Lofton to the Atlanta Braves for David Justice. The trade was the first of several in Embree’s future, and he thrived while pitching with the Braves. He had a 2.54 ERA and made one appearance in the 1997 National League Championship Series.
Between 1997 and 2002, Embree had an ERA of 4.09 with six different teams. During this time he was traded four times and reached the postseason for the fourth time in his career with the 2000 San Francisco Giants. The June 26, 2002 trade from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers proved to be a key pickup for the Red Sox.
Alan Embree’s longest tenure with any team was the four seasons he spent with the Boston Red Sox. Though the team missed the 2002 playoffs with a 93 win season, Embree maintained a sub 3.00 ERA down the stretch. Despite a season ERA above 4.00 in 2003, Embree was pivotal to the Red Sox postseason run with an impressive September, allowing just 3 runs in 15 appearances. In 8 games through the 2003 ALDS and ALCS, Embree didn’t allow a single run. He improved upon his game in 2004, maintaining a sub 4.00 ERA through the middle summer months and a sub 3.00 ERA during the final month of the season. His postseason dominance continued, as he allowed just 2 runs in 11 appearances over the three series. He may be best remembered for being on the mound when the Red Sox completed their improbably come from behind series victory over the New York Yankees.
Alan Embree played a role in altering the Red Sox – Yankees Rivalry forever, Jeff Stone wrote about the historic rivalry in a July 2004 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to read the article!
Embree started the 2005 season with the Red Sox, but struggled mightily. For the first time since his 2001 season, his ERA was nearly 8.00. The Red Sox released the World Series hero in July of that year and he was picked up by the New York Yankees less than two weeks later. He was unable to shake his struggles and became a free agent at the end of the season. He returned to the San Diego Padres for the 2006 season and drastically improved his numbers. His 3.27 ERA was the lowest of his career since 2002. He spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Oakland Athletics and notched 17 saves in his first career stint as an every day closer, filling in for the injured Houston Street.
Embree’s final season in the big leagues was with the 2009 Colorado Rockies. In an interesting twist, Embree had a better ERA at home(4.91) compared to his road games(7.20). Prior to the 2010 season, Embree signed with the Boston Red Sox. He had a brief stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox and was even called up to the big leagues, but never appeared in a game. Released by the Red Sox on May 1st, he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox. He struggled in eight games, and was not recalled by the team. He is currently a free agent as the 2011 season approaches.
Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:
Mark Wohlers, born on January 23rd 1970, played 12 seasons in the big leagues and may be best remembered for his 9 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He allowed a pivotal home run to New York Yankees’ Jim Leyritz in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. Wohler’s battled control problems towards the end of his career, leading observers to diagnose him with baseball’s “Steve Blass Disease“.
Kurt Bevacqua, born in 1947, was primarily a back up with six teams over 15 seasons. He may be best remembered for his game winning home run in Game 2 of the 1984 World Series against the Kansas City Royals while a member of the San Diego Padres.
Frank Sullivan, born in 1930, played eleven seasons in the big league, mostly with the Boston Red Sox. He was a two time All-Star while with Boston and won at least 13 games between 1954 and 1958. He led the American League in victories with 18 in 1955. He was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2008.