Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one minor transaction
On March 22, 1987 the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased 27-year-old catcher Dann Bilardello from the Montreal Expos. Prior to the transaction, he had spent four seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds and Expos, hitting .211 in 298 games with 16 homers and 74 RBIs. He went to Triple-A for the Pirates in 1987, and would be sold to the Kansas City Royals that June. After spending all of 1987-88 in the minors, he signed again with the Pirates as a free agent prior to the 1989 season. He would hit .171 in 52 games with the Pirates between the 1989-90 seasons before leaving via free agency. Bilardello finished his eight-year big league career with two seasons for the 1991-92 San Diego Padres.
Ike Davis, first baseman for the 2014 Pirates. Davis passed on signing out of high school in 2005 when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 19th round. It proved to be a wise decision, as three years later, the New York Mets selected him in the first round (18th overall) after he attended Arizona State. Davis had a rough debut with Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .256 with no homers in 58 games in 2008. By the end of the next season, he was putting up big stats in Double-A. Splitting the year between High-A St Lucie, which was not the best park/league for hitters, and Binghamton of the Eastern League, Davis hit .298 with 31 doubles and 20 homers. He tore up the Arizona Fall League after the season, posting a .958 OPS in 21 games. The Mets waited just ten Triple-A games in 2010 before they brought him to the majors and gave him the starting first base job. In 147 games as a rookie, he hit .264 with 33 doubles, 19 homers, 71 RBIs, 72 walks and 73 runs scored. He was doing well early in 2011 before an ankle injury ended his season after 36 games. During the off-season, he contracted Desert Valley Fever, which put him on a slow pace to start the 2012 season, though he bounced back with a nice display of power. Davis hit just .227 in 156 games, but it came with 26 dobules, 32 homers, 90 RBIs and 61 walks.
In 2013, Davis had a rough year and even spent a month back at Triple-A. He hit .205 with nine homers in 103 games at the big league level. He was acquired by the Pirates early in the 2014 season from the Mets in exchange for two minor league pitchers, Zack Thornton and Blake Taylor. At the time, he was hitting .208 with one homer. For the Pirates, Davis batted .235 with ten homers in 131 games. He also added 18 doubles and 57 walks. He was sold to the Oakland A’s after the season and played just 80 big league games after leaving the Pirates, 72 for the 2015 A’s and eight for the 2016 New York Yankees. Davis also saw time with the Texas Rangers in Triple-A in 2016, and he spent the 2017 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the minors. He attempted a switch to pitcher during his final year (2017) in pro ball and he did well at the lowest level, throwing 5.2 shutout innings, but he didn’t return in 2018. He played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2017. Davis is the son of Ron Davis, an All-Star reliever who spent 11 seasons in the majors.
Mike Morse, first baseman for the 2015-16 Pirates. He had a 13-year career in the majors, beginning in 2005 as a 6’5″ shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. His pro career started with the Chicago White Sox at 18 years old, after they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft out of Nova HS in Florida. It’s a school that has produced four big league players. Morse had a very slow start in pro ball, starting at the bottom rung of the ladder and moving one level each year, while never reaching a .700 OPS in his first four seasons. He finally started doing well at Double-A in 2004, then got traded to the Mariners in June as part of a big five-player deal. Morse hit .278 in 72 games as a rookie in 2005, but he didn’t break into the lineup full-time until the 2010 season with the Washington Nationals. During the 2006-09 seasons, he played a total of 67 big league games. When he finally got regular playing time in 2010, he responded with some strong offense. In 98 games, he hit .289 with 14 homers and an .870 OPS. His best season came in 2011, when he hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 homers and 95 RBIs, leading to a .910 OPS and some mild MVP support. It was a one-year peak, though he was still productive in 2012 with a .291 average (.791 OPS) and 18 homers in 102 games. Morse’s stats really dropped off in 2013, as he posted a .651 OPS in 88 games, while splitting the season between the Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. He rebounded a bit in 2014 after signing a free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants. Morse hit .279 with 32 doubles and 16 homers in 131 games.
He signed with the Miami Marlins for 2015 and hit .213 with four homers in 53 games. On July 30th, he was part of a huge deal with three teams, involving 13 players and a draft pick. He was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers that day, but his stay there was as short as possible. The Pirates acquired Morse from the Dodgers the next day in an even up deal for Jose Tabata. It was an exchange of big salaries from players who were not performing well. Morse batted .275 in 45 games for the 2015 Pirates, mostly seeing time off of the bench. He was with the Pirates on Opening Day in 2016, and he went 0-for-8 in six games before being released in late April. He didn’t sign with a new team until December of 2016, inking a free agent deal with the Giants. He was limited to 24 games due to a hamstring injury early in the year and a concussion that ended his season on May 29th. Morse retired after the season. He batted .274 in 832 big league games, with 105 homers and 355 RBIs. He moved off of shortstop after his rookie season and split his remaining time between left field, right field and first base, getting 164+ starts at each position. Morse ended up playing just three innings at shortstop after the 2005 season.
Jason Phillips, pitcher for the 1999 Pirates. Phillips was drafted at 18 years old out of Hughesville HS in Hughesville, PA. by the Pirates in the 14th round of the 1992 amateur draft. It took seven seasons for the 6’6″ righty to work his way to the majors. He was a starter in the minors, who really struggled during his first season in Low-A in 1994, posting a 6-12, 6.73 record, though he showed some potential with his 108 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. After pitching mostly in relief in 1995 at Low-A, he returned to the starting role in 1996 and had a solid season. Phillips split the year between Low-A/High-A, going 10-10, 3.36 in 163.1 innings, with 138 strikeouts. He spent most of 1997 in High-A, seeing four Double-A starts. Phillips struck out 162 batters in 169.2 innings, while posting a 3.50 ERA, with better results in Double-A (2.32 ERA in 31 innings). He had a similar season in 1998, putting up average results in 25 starts at Double-A Carolina, before compiling a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings at Triple-A Nashville. He set a career best with 181.2 innings, though he saw his strikeout rate per nine innings go from 8.6 in 1997 down to 6.7 in 1998. Phillips made the big league Opening Day roster in 1999 as a reliever and got hit hard in his six appearances, allowing nine runs on 11 hits and six walks in seven innings. When reliever Marc Wilkins returned from the disabled list on April 30th, Phillips was sent to the minors, where he made just one Triple-A appearance before missing the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury. He was released after the season and re-signed on a minor league deal. He also missed most of 2000 due to that shoulder injury, making just six starts. Phillips once again re-signed with the Pirates in 2001 on a minor league deal. He began the 2001 season in Double-A Altoona, where he allowed 11 runs over nine innings of work before being released in early June. He signed with the Cleveland Indians two days later and eventually made it back to the majors in July of 2002. During 2002-03 seasons in Cleveland, Phillips posted a 5.40 ERA in six starts and five relief appearances. He pitched until 2005 in the minors and spent parts of two seasons (2003-04) in Japan. His final season was spent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he had a 5.70 ERA in 101 innings at Triple-A. During the 2001-07 seasons, there was a catcher named Jason Phillips for the New York Mets, but the two Jason Phillips never got a chance to face each other in a big league game.
Ramon Martinez, pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers at 17 years old in 1984, 17 years before he came to the Pirates. He is the brother of the great Pedro Martinez and the cousin of former Pirates pitcher Denny Bautista, making the pair one of 22 sets of relatives to play for the Pirates. Ramon Martinez won at least ten games in a season eight times in his career, with a high of 20 wins in 1990 for the Dodgers. It took Martinez four seasons in the minors to climb from rookie ball to the majors at 20 years old. In the Florida State League in 1987, he went 16-5, 2.17 in 170.1 innings, with 148 strikeouts. He needed 14 starts in Double-A and another ten in Triple-A, before the Dodgers called him up to the majors in August of 1988. He had a 2.58 ERA in 153.2 minor league innings, followed by a 3.79 ERA in 35.2 big league innings. Martinez struck out 161 batters that year. Despite pitching well in his debut, his split the 1989 season between Triple-A and the majors, putting up strong numbers at both levels. In 15 starts for the Dodgers, he had a 3.19 ERA in 98.2 innings. His career year came at 22 years old in 1990 when he went 20-6, 2.92 in 234.1 innings, with 223 strikeouts. He led the National League with 12 complete games, made his only All-Star appearances, finished second in the Cy Young voting (to Doug Drabek) and he received mild MVP support. Martinez saw a fall off in his stats over the next two years, though his 1991 season was still a very strong year. He went 17-13, 3.27 in 220.1 innings, with 150 strikeouts. The 1992 season was the disappointing year, with an 8-11, 4.00 record in 25 starts and 150.2 innings. He missed all of September with a minor elbow injury. Martinez rebounded in 1993, through it didn’t show in his record. He went 10-12, 3.44 in 211.2 innings. He led the NL with 108 walks, an honor he would repeat two years later. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, he was 12-7, 3.97 in 170 innings, leading the league with three shutouts. He had a big 1995 season despite the delayed start possibly costing him a chance at another 20-win season. Martinez went 17-7, 3.66 in 206.1 innings. Over his last six seasons in the majors, he lost durability, beginning in 1996 when he pitched 168.1 innings. He was still very effective when he was on the mound, going 15-6, 3.42 in 27 starts and a relief appearance. His innings dropped to 133.2 in 1997, when he made 22 started and posted a 10-5, 3.64 record. A rotator cuff injury/surgery limited him to 15 starts in 1998. Martinez moved on to the Boston Red Sox to continue his rehab in 1999, and he was able to make four starts late in the year. In 2000, he posted a 10-8 record in 27 starts, but his ERA was 6.13 and he averaged less than five innings per start, throwing 127.2 innings on the year.. The Pirates signed him as a free agent on April 11, 2001, two weeks after the Dodgers released him from the free agent contract he signed three months earlier. For the Pirates he stepped into the rotation just three days after signing and made four starts. He never got past the fifth inning in any start and Pittsburgh lost all four games. After his start on May 1st, Martinez decided to retire, finishing his career with a 135-88, 3.67 record in 301 games, 297 as a starter. He pitched with his brother during the 1992-93 seasons in Los Angeles and the 1999-2000 seasons in Boston. A third brother named Jesus was a pitcher with the Dodgers and got called up in 1996, but he sat in the bullpen for all 27 games and never made it back to the majors.