This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 13th, Steve Pearce and Ricardo Rincon

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date.

Steve Pearce, first baseman/right fielder for the 2007-11 Pirates. He went undrafted out of high school, but he still managed to be drafted three times before he signed. Pearce was first chosen in the 45th round in 2003 by the Minnesota Twins out of Indian River Community College. The next season he transferred to the University of South Carolina and moved up to a tenth round pick. He finally signed in 2005 after the Pirates selected him in the eighth round. Pearce hit .301 in 72 games for Williamsport during his first season of pro ball. He moved up to low-A ball to start 2006, splitting the season between Hickory and Lynchburg. He hit a combined .273 that year, with 26 homers, 97 RBIs and 83 runs scored. Pearce repeated High-A ball to start the 2007 season. but quickly worked his way up the system, finishing the year in the majors. Between three stops in the minors, he hit .333 with 40 doubles, 31 homers and 113 RBIs. In the majors he hit .294 in 23 games. Pearce started the 2008 season at Triple-A, getting recalled in July and hitting .248 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 37 games. In 2009, he was hitting .286 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs through 77 games at Triple-A when he got his third shot at the majors. He played a career high 60 games with the Pirates, hitting .206 with 13 doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs. He opened his season at Triple-A for the third straight year in 2010, this time getting recalled in early May. He was hitting .276 through 15 games, when he injured his ankle at first base chasing down an errant throw from third baseman Delwyn Young. Pearce would not return to the Pirates that season. In 2011 he made his first Opening Day roster, but hit just .202 in 50 games . The Pirates let him go in November and he went on to play with the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays (the entire AL East and the Astros) after leaving the Pirates. In the 2012 season alone, he saw time with the Orioles, Astros and Yankees, while playing just 61 games total. In fact, he had two stints with the Yankees and Orioles that season, moving around five times throughout the year. Pearce spent part of the 2013 season with the Orioles in the majors, hitting .261 with four homers in 44 games. He had his best big league season in 2014, playing a career high 102 games. He hit .293, while setting career highs with 21 homers, 26 doubles, 51 runs scored, 40 walks and 49 RBIs.

In 2015, Pearce saw his average drop to .218 in 92 games, though he had 15 homers and 40 RBIs. The 2016 season was split between Baltimore and Tampa Bay, with much better results for the Rays. He actually signed a free agent deal with the Rays and hit .309 with ten homers in 60 games, then was traded to the Orioles in August, where he hit .217 in 25 games. Despite playing for the Orioles each year from 2013 through 2016, it was actually three separate stints with the team. Pearce spent the 2017 season with the Blue Jays, hitting .252 with 13 homers in 92 games. He split the 2018 season between Toronto and Boston, hitting .284 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 76 games. In the postseason he batted .333 in the first round, homered in the second round, then took home MVP honors in the World Series by hitting .333 with three homers and eight RBIs. Pearce was limited to 29 games in 2019, and he hit .180 with one homer. He retired after the 2019 season. In 13 seasons, he hit .254 in 766 games, with 91 homers and 303 RBIs. With the Pirates, he hit .232 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 185 games.

Ricardo Rincon, pitcher for the 1997-98 Pirates. He pitched in the Mexican League for seven seasons, prior to signing with the Pirates before Spring Training in 1997. The Pirates first noticed him playing winter ball in Mexico during the 1996-97 off-season. He was property of the Mexico City Reds, a team that had a working agreement with the Pirates, so Pittsburgh was able to acquire his rights. Rincon received a Spring Training invite and the initial expectations were that he would start out in the U.S. in the minors, but he made the team on Opening Day. His full stats from Mexico aren’t available, but during the 1996 season, he had a 2.97 ERA in 78.2 innings over 50 appearances, with ten saves and 60 strikeouts. During his first season in the majors, he pitched 62 games in relief, getting into a total of 60 innings. Rinconhad a 4-8 record, with a 3.45 ERA, four saves and he recorded 71 strikeouts. On July 12, 1997, he pitched the final inning (and picked up the win) of a ten-inning no-hitter started by Francisco Cordova. Rincon began the 1998 season in the minors, but quickly returned to Pittsburgh, where he made 60 appearances out of the bullpen, getting into a total of 65 innings, with 64 strikeouts, a 2.91 ERA and 14 saves. On November 18, 1998, the Pirates dealt Rincon to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Brian Giles.

Rincon did well in limited work as a lefty specialist during his time in Cleveland. In 207 appearances over 3 1/2 seasons with the Indians, he had a 3.73 ERA and pitched a total of 154.1 innings. He had a 2.83 ERA over 67 appearances in 2001. During the 2002 season, he was traded to the Oakland A’s, where he continued the lefty specialist role. In 3 1/2 seasons with Oakland, he made 223 appearances and pitched just 157 innings. The A’s went to the extreme with his lefty specialist usage during the 2005 season when he pitched 67 times and threw a total of 37.1 innings. He really struggled against right-handed batters during his career, and they put up a .907 OPS against him in 50 at-bats during the 2005 season. Rincon signed as a free agent with the St Louis Cardinals in December of 2005. He injured his shoulder during Spring Training and tried to pitch through it early in the season, but after five April appearances, his season was over. The Cardinals cut him on the last day of Spring Training in 2007, despite one year remaining on his $2.9 M two-year deal. Rincon pitched briefly for the San Francisco Giants in Triple-A in 2007, then pitched poorly in a brief run during the Mexican winter league that off-season. His big league career ended with four innings over eight appearances with the 2008 New York Mets. Rincon was far from done in pro ball at that point. He finished 2008 in Mexico and then played there through the 2012-13 winter season, playing both summer and winter ball during three of his final five seasons. For his big league career, he had a 21-24, 3.59 record in 565 games, all as a reliever, with 21 saves and 443.2 innings pitched.

Doug Strange, infielder for the 1998 Pirates. He began his career in the Detroit Tigers system after getting drafted in the seventh round out of North Carolina State in 1985. He debuted in the Appalachian League, where he hit .305 with an .835 OPS in 65 games. The Tigers moved him up to High-A in 1986, where he batted .255 with 29 doubles and 18 steals in 126 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Strange began the next season in Double-A, where he batted .302 with 13 homers and 70 RBIs in 115 games. He ended up in Triple-A for the final month and hit .244 in 16 games. He had a rough 1988 season that was once again split between Double-A and Triple-A. He combined to hit .236, with a .597 OPS in 139 games. The struggled turned out to be just a one-year setback. Strange first played in the majors in 1989, when he hit .214 in 64 games for the Tigers. He had a .713 OPS in 83 games in Triple-A that season. He was traded to the Houston Astros at the end of Spring Training in 1990, but his stay there didn’t even last two months, and he spent the entire time in Triple-A. He was released in late May and signed with the Chicago Cubs two weeks later. He spent the rest of the season in Triple-A, combining to hit .283 in 119 games between the two stops. Strange appeared in the majors briefly in 1991 with the Cubs (three games) and then he played another 52 big league games in 1992. He hit .160 in 94 at-bats during the latter season. Chicago let him leave via free agency in December of 1992 and he signed with the Texas Rangers. He had his best season in the majors in 1993 as the starting second baseman for Texas, putting up a .256 average and 60 RBIs in 145 games. Strange wasn’t able to repeat those numbers the next season, batting just .212 in 73 games. He then he moved on to the Seattle Mariners, where he was a bench player for two seasons, seeing most of his playing time at third base. He batted .271 in 74 games in 1995, then hit .235 in 88 games in 1996.

Strange signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Expos in February of 1997. He he hit .257 with 47 RBIs and a career high 12 homers in 118 games. The Pirates signed him as a free agent on December 2, 1997. In 1998 he played mostly third base and saw plenty of opportunities in a pinch-hitting role. He missed almost the entire month of July and struggled when he did play, hitting .173 with no homers and 14 RBIs in 90 games. Strange was with the Pirates in 1999, but was placed on the disabled list to start the season due to an elbow problem. By mid-season it was determined he needed surgery, which ended his season. He played briefly in the minors in 2000 before retiring as a player. Strange is currently the Special Assistant Scout for the Pirates. He has been in the Pirates organization in some capacity since 2002. In 707 big league games, he hit .233 with 31 homers, 211 RBIs and 194 runs scored. He stole 14 bases in 29 attempts. Strange was considered to be an above average defender. He played 339 games at third base during his career, and 229 games at second base.

Claude Hendrix, pitcher for the 1911-13 Pirates. He pitched two seasons in the minors with mixed results before having a strong season in 1910 pitching for a semi-pro team out of Wyoming, where he struck out over 200 batters and won 17 games. The Pirates signed him for 1911 and he made 12 starts and ten relief appearances that year. In 118.2 innings, he went 4-6 with a 2.73 ERA. In 1912 he was in a starting rotation that included star pitchers Howie Camnitz and Babe Adams, but it was Hendrix who had the best season. He went 24-9 with a 2.59 ERA and a team leading 288.2 innings pitched. He threw four shutouts, 25 complete games and he struck out 176 batters, second highest total in the National League. His .727 winning percentage was the best in the league, but it only ended up being the third best mark of his career. The Pirates dropped from 93 wins in 1912 down to 78 in 1913 and despite an ERA of 2.84, Hendrix saw his record drop to 14-15 on the year. When the Federal League formed prior to the 1914 season, Hendrix jumped to the Chicago team in the league and had a great season, winning a league high 29 games with a league best 1.69 ERA. His 189 strikeouts set a career high. He followed that up with a 16-15, 3.00 record in 285 innings in 1915. On May 15, 1915, he threw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Rebels. When that league folded, most of the Chicago players from the FL were moved to the Chicago Cubs roster. Hendrix finished out his career with five more seasons in the Windy City. He had an 8-16 record in 1916, despite a 2.68 ERA in 218 innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.60 in 215 innings in 1917, but it came with a 10-12 record. Things turned around for him in 1918 when the Cubs won the pennant and he had a 20-7, 2.78 record in 233 innings. He led the league with a .741 winning percentage. The Cubs dropped down to third place in 1919 with a 75-65 record, but Hendrix was saddled with a 10-14 record of his own, despite a 2.62 ERA in 206.1 innings. In his final season in the majors, he went 9-12, 3.58 in 203.2 innings, his ninth straight season with 200+ innings. He was pulled from a start on August 31 at the last minute due to an alleged gambling fix that day, and never pitched in pro ball again, though no charges were officially filed against him because of a lack of evidence. He was released after the season and played some semi-pro ball after being forced into early retirement. He had a 144-116, 2.65 career record in 2,371.1 innings over 257 starts and 103 relief appearances.

Mike Simon, catcher for the 1909-1913 Pirates. He was a light-hitting minor leaguer for five seasons before being taken by the Boston Doves (Braves) in the 1908 Rule 5 draft. He was known more for his defense, which showed in his minor league averages over his early years. He batted .250 in brief time as a rookie in pro ball in in 1904, but that was followed up by a .202 average in 1905 and a .215 average in 1906. His stats are incomplete for 1907, but in his draft year, he batted .217 in 130 games for Cedar Rapids of the Three-I League. Simon never played for Boston in the majors. The Doves sold him to the Pirates on March 1, 1909 and he became the backup catcher to George Gibson. That 1909 season saw Gibson play 150 games, which didn’t leave much playing time for Simon or the other backup catcher, Paddy O’Connor. Simon played just 12 games his rookie season, going 3-for-18 at the plate. He received slightly more time in 1910, but got his first real chance to play in 1911 when Gibson “only” caught 98 games. Simon played 71 games in 1911 and he had a .228 batting average with 22 RBIs in 215 at-bats. In 1912 he batted .301 on the season, but a new catcher named Bill Kelly emerged and he hit .318 in 48 games, leaving Simon with just 113 at-bats all year. Simon took over at the starting catcher in 1913. He hit .247 with 17 RBIs in 92 games behind the plate. Following the 1913 season, the Federal League was formed to help players get a better salary by eliminating the reserve clause and Simon was one of many players to jump to the league. He played two seasons in the FL, and like many of the marginal players who jumped to the league, they didn’t have a Major League job when they tried to come back after the new league folded. It didn’t help that his production slipped off greatly in the new league. He was supposedly signing his contract with the Pirates in January of 1914, but on January 27th it was announced that he signed a three-year deal with Federal League officials, without a specific team being named. The next day, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss noted that Simon requested a raise to $3,000 for his 1914 salary and Dreyfuss met his terms, showing the agreed to contract that was never signed. Simon hit .207 in 93 games for the St Louis Terriers in 1914, then batted just .176 in 47 games for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in 1915. He finished his career in the minors in 1917. In five seasons with the Pirates, he hit .244 with one homer in 239 games. He did not homer during either season in the Federal League. The lone homer was an inside-the-park home run and it came during one of his final games with Pittsburgh. Simon hit .321 in 125 games in 1916 after dropping down in competition to the Class-B Three-I League, but he batted just .224 when he moved up to the Pacific Coast League for his final season.

Abel Lizotte, first baseman for the 1896 Pirates. He was a strong hitting minor league outfielder for most of his 17-year career, batting over .300 during at least seven of those seasons (his minor league stats are incomplete). For as good as he was in the minors, spending most of his time at the top levels of the minor leagues, his Major League career lasted just ten day in September of 1896. The Pirates purchased him for $1,000 from Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League after he led the league in average. He was hitting .398 at the time of his purchase, with just a few games remaining in the season. Lizotte hit .321 in 1894 and .333 in 1895, both seasons spent with Wilkes-Barre. He scored 111 runs and hit 29 triples during the 1895 season. During the 1893 season, his third year with Lewiston of the New England League, he put up a .370 average. After going 3-for-29 at the plate with the Pirates, collecting three singles and three RBIs in the last seven games of the 1896 season, Lizotte returned to the minors for another 11 seasons. When he joined the Pirates, Connie Mack, who was manager at the time, said that he wanted to get him experience so he could take over the first base job in 1897. After his last game, the local paper said that if he could hit like he did in the final game of the season, and not like the first six games, the Pirates might just have something. He played all of his Major League games at first base and he hit third in the batting order. Lizotte played a short barnstorming trip with the Pirates after the 1896 season ended and in early December it was quoted that he would remain with the Pirates, even after they completed a big trade with the Baltimore Orioles.  However, on December 15th he was  sold to Syracuse of the Eastern League, along with teammate Jud Smith. With Syracuse during the 1897 season, he batted .323 with 40 doubles and 90 runs scored in 136 games. Lizotte played three seasons in Syracuse, then played for nine different teams in five different leagues over the last eight years of his career. He lived later in life in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, where he had played five seasons and also managed during his last two years (1907-08) in pro ball. While in Pittsburgh, the local press referred to him as Lezotte.