This Date in Pirates History: September 13th, Denny Neagle

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who were traded for Jason Schmidt.

Andy LaRoche, third baseman for the 2008-10 Pirates. He was originally signed in 2003 by the Los Angeles Dodgers after they took him in the 39th round of the amateur draft. LaRoche was also drafted a year earlier by the San Diego Padres (21st round), but decided to go back to college. He quickly established himself as a top prospects in the Dodgers system, getting rated in Baseball America’s top 100 after one full season. Over the next three seasons, he would make their top 100 list every year, ranked as high as 19th overall twice. He had two trials with the Dodgers (2007-08), struggling each time, before the Pirates acquired him at the 2008 trading deadline in the Jason Bay deal. LaRoche went right in as the starter at third base for the Pirates, starting 45 of the last 50 games of the season. He hit just .152 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 183 plate appearances.

In 2009, LaRoche was again the starting third baseman, playing 150 games, 142 as a starter. He hit .258 with 12 homers, 29 doubles and 64 RBIs in 590 plate appearances. LaRoche finished as the team leader in games played, hits, doubles and RBIs. His 2010 season did not go well, losing his starting spot when Pedro Alvarez was called to the majors. He batted .206, with only 16 RBIs in 102 games. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Oakland A’s. LaRoche played 40 games in 2011 for the A’s, hitting .247 with no homers and five RBIs. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, spending the first two months at Triple-A before being released. He then signed with the Boston Red Sox, finishing the year at Triple-A Pawtucket. LaRoche made it back to the majors for one game with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays and he went 0-for-4. He remained with Toronto in Triple-A in 2014 and spent the 2015-16 seasons playing independent ball, before retiring. His brother Adam played for the 2007-09 Pirates and his father Dave pitched 14 seasons in the majors.

Armando Rios, outfielder for the 2001-02 Pirates. He was originally signed in 1994 by the San Francisco Giants as a non-drafted free agent. Rios didn’t make his Major League debut until a few weeks before his 27th birthday, getting a brief trial during the 1998 season. In 1999, he played 72 games for the Giants, hitting .327 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. That performance earned him his first full season in the majors the following year. In what turned out to be his only full injury-free season in the majors, Rios hit .266 with ten homers and 50 RBIs in 115 games, 50 of them as a starter. The Pirates acquired Rios and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong on July 30, 2001 from the San Francisco Giants for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. He was hitting .260 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs at the time of the deal. Rios tore his ACL just two games into his time with the Pirates. The play that ended his season came in San Francisco on a pop up off of the bat of Jason Schmidt. He missed some time during the 2012 season as well with minor ailments, finishing the year with a .264 average and 24 RBIs in 76 games. Rios was released by the Pirates following the 2002 season when they balked at going to arbitration with him. He played 49 games for the 2003 Chicago White Sox, then spent the rest of his career in the minors, finishing in 2005 in independent ball.

Denny Neagle, pitcher for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was originally a third round pick in 1989 of the Minnesota Twins. The lefty-throwing Neagle made his Major League debut two years later, pitching seven games for Minnesota. On March 17, 1992, the Pirates acquired Neagle, along with Midre  Cummings, from the Twins in exchange for John Smiley, who happened to be celebrating his 27th birthday that day. Neagle pitched out of the bullpen his first two seasons in Pittsburgh with lackluster results. Even in 1994, when he became a full-time starter, he went just 9-10, 5.12 in 24 outings. Then the strike happened and the 1994 season ended early. The 1995 season started a few weeks late and things clicked for Neagle over the long off-season. He came back and went 13-8, 3.43, leading the NL in starts (31) and innings pitched (209.2). The following year he was even better, although he didn’t last in Pittsburgh the entire season. On August 28, 1996, the Pirates traded Neagle to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Schmidt and two minor league players. At the time of the trade, he was 14-6, 3.05 in 27 starts. The Pirates unfortunately got rid of him one year too soon, because he won twenty games for the Braves in 1997, then began a slow decline in performance, ending with three tough years of pitching (and one missed year) in Colorado. Neagle went 124-92, 4.24 in his career over 13 seasons in the majors.

Tom Parsons, starting pitcher for the Pirates on September 5, 1963. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1957, making his debut in the minors at 17 years old. Parsons was a 6’7″ righty, who pitched three years in the low minors, prior to moving up in 1960 to Triple-A. He would spend four full seasons at that level before getting his Major League debut in 1963 as a September call-up. On Sept. 5th, Parsons started in Milwaukee against the Braves and lost 8-0, going 4.1 innings, with six runs (five earned) allowed on seven hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. In the third inning, he allowed a three-run homer to Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews. That would end up being his only game for the Pirates. The following September, Parsons was sold to the New York Mets, who used him four times that year, then he saw regular action during the 1965 season. That year he went 1-10, 4.67 in 11 starts and 24 relief appearances. He spent his last four seasons of pro ball (1966-69) back in the minors, three of those years with the Houston Astros organization after the Mets traded him there for Jerry Grote. Parsons turns 81 years old today.