Congratulations to Ryan Vogelsong on a great game for the Giants on Saturday night. I can’t help but wonder if he would be this good with the Phillies if they wouldn’t have released him on July 15, 2010. Afterall, he was just 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA in his half season with the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. Vogelsong was a 32 year old veteran trying to make it back to the big leagues when he passed through the Lehigh Valley. There always seems to be a veteran or two in the Ironpigs starting rotation who are trying to earn one more shot at the show but few ever seem to realize that dream. We’ve seen the likes of Kris Benson, Gustavo Chacin, Rodrigo Lopez, Nate Bump, Brandon Duckworth, Dave Bush, Ryan Feierabend, Aaron Heilman, Tim Redding and others all pass through the gates of Coca-Cola Park, all with varying degrees of success, or failure.
Now, nearly 28 months after being released by the Phillies/Ironpigs, Ryan Vogelsong was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the 2012 World Series. It made me think,…were there any other pitchers who started a World Series game “after” starting a game for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. It didn’t take me long to think of one other name. On July 31, 2009, Pedro Martinez started a game for the Ironpigs. He was then called up to the Phillies where he won 5 of 6 decisions the remainder of the season. In the 2009 World Series he made 2 starts for the Phillies, both losses to the New York Yankees. But Pedro may be in a class by himself because he started (and won) a game for the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 World Series. That “could” make him the only pitcher to start a World Series game before and after he started a game for the Ironpigs.
Then I remembered another pitcher who possibly started a game for the Ironpigs before starting a game in the World Series. I knew Brett Myers pitched for the Ironpigs in 2008 and 2009 but did he start a game for the 2008 Ironpigs and also start a game for the Phillies in the 2008 World Series? The answer to both is yes. Brett Myers pitched in 2 games for the 2008 Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, both starts. He then started Game 2 of the 2008 World Series, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2. When Brett returned to the Ironpigs near the end of the 2009 International League season, he again pitched in 2 games but this time they were both in relief.
I then found 3 other pitchers who started a World Series game BEFORE they started a game for the Ironpigs. The easiest one to think of was Roy Oswalt. Oswalt was a 20 game winner for the 2005 National League Champion Houston Astros. Houston advanced to face the American League champion Chicago White Sox and were swept 4 games to none. Oswalt started Game 3 and went 6 innings, leaving the game with the Astros trailing 5-4, a game they once led 4-0. The White Sox would go on to win that game 7-5 in 14 innings and then sweep the series the next night. Six years later Roy Oswalt pitched in 2 games for the 2011 Lehigh Valley Ironpigs and both of them were starts. Add him to the list.
While looking at the boxscores from the 2005 World Series I noticed that Roger Clemens pitched Game 1 for the Astros. His opponent that night was Jose Contreras who was 15-7 for Chicago that year as a starter, but did he ever start a game for the Ironpigs? On May 24, 2011 Contreras made a rehab appearance with the Ironpigs. Although he was being used exclusively as a reliever in Philadelphia, he started that day at Coca-Cola Park against the Gwinnett Braves and threw 2 scoreless innings.
The final name I found was someone I barely remembered putting on an Ironpigs uniform. In 2006 the Detroit Tigers met the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Cardinals and Tigers split the first 2 games in Detroit before moving to St. Louis where the Cardinals won 3 straight to clinch the World Series. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter started game 3 of that series and threw 8 scoreless innings before Braden Looper came on for a save as the Cardinals shut out the Tigers 5-0. Starting that game for the Tigers was the final pitcher I could find who had once started a World Series game and also started a game for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. His name was Nate Robertson and he was a 13 game winner for the Tigers that year. Robertson struggled in the majors after the 2006 season and in 2010 he found himself briefly with the Ironpigs. While in Allentown he pitched in 2 games, both starts, and went 1-1 with a 3.39 ERA. He had been signed as a free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals on August 2, 2010 but was released on August 23. The next day he was signed by the Phillies. He was assigned to the Ironpigs where he made his 2 starts before moving up to the Phillies. He made 2 relief appearances with the Phillies on September 6th and 8th. In that second appearance he allowed 6 earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning and two days later he was released. He has bounced around the minors the past 2 years, never again pitching in the big leagues. But, for that one year he was a solid starter for the American League Champions and good enough to start a World Series game.
With my half-hearted research, that puts my list at six: Vogelsong, Martinez, Myers, Oswalt, Contreras, and Robertson. Overall, not too bad. If I missed anyone, please let me know.
Stay dry, and may the Baseball Gods smile down on the Ironpigs in 2013.
–Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry was drafted by the Phillies in 2006 and put on waivers in July, 2010. He bounced around with several organizations before finding his way to Detroit. He was promoted to the Tigers this year and never went back to the minors. He hit .258 this year with 2 home runs and stole 21 bases in 21 attempts.
–There are only two Sunday home games with a 5:35 starting time for the Ironpigs in 2013, July 21st and September 1st. July 21st is the only Sunday home game in July and there are no Sunday home games in August. Same with Saturdays. Saturday away games from July 1st to the end of the season outnumber Saturday home games by a 7-2 margin.