Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one major trade to note.
On this date in 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran shortstop Frank Taveras to the New York Mets for shortstop Tim Foli and minor league pitcher Greg Field. Foli was 28 years old and coming off a season in which he hit .257 with 27 RBIs in 113 games for the Mets. As a 21-year-old in Triple-A in 1978, Field went 6-6, 4.94 in 21 starts. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 1975 draft. Taveras was originally signed by the Pirates in 1968 and had played parts of eight seasons in the majors with the team. The 29-year-old hit .278 for the Pirates in 1978, stealing 46 bases, but he was also caught a league leading 25 times. In 1977 he stole 70 bases to lead the National League.
After the trade, Taveras played three seasons with the Mets, hitting .263 in 378 games, with 184 runs scored and 90 stolen bases. Due to the timing of the trade, he was able to play 164 games in 1979, a total that has been topped once (Maury Wills in 1962) and tied just four times in MLB history. Foli also played three seasons with his new team, getting into a total of 346 games for the Pirates. He hit .291, scored 70 runs, and drove in 65 runs during the Pirates World Series winning season in 1979. Those numbers on offense set season highs for all three categories during his 16-year career. In the postseason, he hit .333 in both the NLCS and the World Series. Foli led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage in 1980. He also played for the Pirates in 1985, coming over with Steve Kemp from the New York Yankees for Dale Berra and Jay Buhner. Field never made the majors, retiring in 1984 after ten seasons in the minors.
Zach Duke, pitcher for the 2005-10 Pirates. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2001 amateur draft out of Midway HS in Texas. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2002, going 8-1, 1.95 in 60 innings. Duke moved up to Low-A in 2003 and made 26 starts, going 8-7, 3.11 in 141.2 innings. He had a 15-6, 1.46 record in 26 starts, split between High-A and Double-A during the 2004 season. In 2005, he made 16 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis, going 12-3, 2.92 in 108 innings. The Pirates called him up that July and watched him go 8-2, 1.81 in 14 starts. Duke couldn’t replicate his strong start during his sophomore season. He went 10-15, 4.47 in 34 starts and led the National League in hits allowed. His 2007 season was even worse and he was slowed by an injury. Duke went 3-8, 5.53 in 107.1 innings that season. The 2008 season was another rough one as he went 5-14, 4.82 in 31 starts. Duke got off to a strong start in 2009, posting a 3.29 ERA in 126 innings through July 10th. That earned him an All-Star berth (the only one of his career), but he returned to previous standards in the second half of the season, going 3-8, 5.17 to finish out the year. He ended up leading the NL in losses (16). Duke returned for one final season in Pittsburgh in 2010, posting a career high 5.72 ERA, before the Pirates dealt him in the off-season to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Cesar Valdez. Duke pitched for nine teams in nine years after leaving the Pirates, spending most of his time pitching in relief. He had a 4.93 ERA in 76.2 innings for the 2011 Diamondbacks, making nine starts and 12 relief appearances. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Houston Astros, who released him at the end of Spring Training in 2012. Duke signed two days later with the Washington Nationals and spent most of the year in Triple-A, where he won 15 games. He pitched a total of 13.2 innings with the Nationals and allowed just two runs (1.32 ERA). He was in Washington early in 2013, but got his released after posting an 8.71 ERA in 12 appearances. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds and was lights out the rest of the season, though he spent part of that time in Triple-A. Duke had a 1.30 ERA in the minors in 2013 and then allowed just one run over 14 appearances with the Reds.
Despite the strong results with the Reds, Duke became a free agent after the season. He signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and had an outstanding 2014 season as a lefty specialist. He made 74 appearances and posted a 2.45 ERA in 58.2 innings, with 74 strikeouts. Duke moved on to the Chicago White Sox in 2015, taking up a similar role. He had a 3.41 ERA in 60.2 innings over 71 appearances in 2015, then he had a 2.63 ERA in 53 outings through July 31st in 2016. He was sent to the St Louis Cardinals at the trading deadline, where he finished off the 2016 season with a 1.93 ERA in 28 outings. He had Tommy John surgery after the season, but made an exceptionally quick return to get back in late July of 2017, which allowed him to make 27 appearances that season. Duke split the 2018 season between the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners, putting up a 4.15 ERA in 52 innings over 72 games. He finished out his big league career with a second stint in Cincinnati, where he posted a 5.01 ERA in 30 appearances, before being released in July of 2019. In 15 big league seasons, he put up a 69-91, 4.31 record in 1,360 innings over 169 starts and 401 relief appearances. With the Pirates in six seasons, he was 45-70, 4.54 in 964.1 innings. Despite the lengthy career, he never played in a postseason game.
Joe Beimel, pitcher for the 2001-03 and 2011 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the 26th round in 1996 by the Texas Rangers out of Allegany College in Maryland. He transferred to Duquesne Universtiry, where he was an 18th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1998. Beimel was a starter during the three seasons he spent in the minors prior to his Major League debut. His debut did not go well in pro ball, posting a 6.32 ERA in 47 innings while pitching in the New York-Penn League. He wasn’t much better in Low-A in 1999, going 5-11, 4.43 in 130 innings. Beimel got off to a strong start in High-A in 2000 and earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A, where the results weren’t as strong. He combined to go 11-12, 3.63 in 183.1 innings. Despite mediocre Double-A results and no time in Triple-A, he made the big league roster on Opening Day in 2001. For the 2001 Pirates, he made 15 starts and 27 relief appearances, going 7-11, 5.23 in 115.1 innings. In 2002, he made eight more starts and 45 relief appearances, posting a 4.64 ERA in 85.1 innings. After that season, he pitched 581 more games in the majors without making a single start. Beimel made 69 appearances during the 2003 season, posting a 5.05 ERA. He was released during the following Spring Training and he signed with the Minnesota Twins. He also pitched for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies, before re-signing with the Pirates on January 28, 2011. His big league time in 2004 with the Twins consisted of three appearances and eight runs allowed over 1.2 innings. With the Devil Rays in 2005, he pitched 11 innings over seven outings.
Beimel had an outstanding 2006 season with the Dodgers, putting up a 2.96 ERA in 70 innings over 62 games. He saw his ERA go up to 3.88 in 2007 when he was used more as a lefty specialist, throwing 67.1 innings in a career high 83 appearances. Beimel had his best season in 2008, putting up a 2.02 ERA in 49 innings over 71 games. He became a free agent and split the 2009 season between the Nationals and Rockies, going 1-6, 3.58 in 55.1 innings over 71 appearances. He re-signed with the Rockies for 2010 and had a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings over 71 games. For Pittsburgh during the 2011 season, Beimel went 1-1, 5.33 in 35 games, pitching a total of 25.1 innings. The Pirates released him at the end of August, ending his season. He signed with the Texas Rangers in spring of 2012, but was released prior to the start of the season and went two years without playing in the majors. He returned with the 2014-15 Seattle Mariners to finish out his big league career, posting a 3.12 ERA in 109 appearances over his final two season. He pitched in Triple-A for the Kansas City Royals in 2016 and he played independent ball in 2017, before finally retiring after 19 seasons in pro ball. Beimel put up a 29-34, 4.06 record in 676 games during his 13-year career. With the Pirates, he had a 3.05 ERA in 288.1 innings over 199 appearances. On top of his 676 big league games, he also pitched 262 games in the minors/independent ball.
Dennys Reyes, pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1993 out of Mexico at 16 years old. He played in Mexico during the 1993 season, then worked his way up to High-A ball by the middle of the 1994 season. Reyes struggled with the large jump in competition, putting up a 6.70 ERA in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He remained at the level in 1995, but an injury limited him to ten innings. In 1996, he was a starter in High-A, as the Dodgers shifted him from the FSL to the hitter-friendly California League when they had two High-A affiliates at the same time. Reyes went 11-12, 4.17 in 166 innings. He pitched well in Double-A in 1997 (3.02 ERA in 80.1 innings), had troubles in Triple-A (5.65 in 57.1 innings) and he made his big league debut in July. For the 1997 Dodgers, the 20-year-old Reyes had a 3.83 ERA in 47 innings. He spent time in Triple-A and the majors for both the Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds in 1998. He combined for a 4.54 ERA in 67.1 big league innings. Reyes spent the next two full seasons in the majors as a full-time reliever with the Reds. He had a 3.79 ERA in 61.2 innings over 65 appearances in 1999, then a 4.52 ERA in 43.2 innings over 62 outings in 2000. He split the 2001 season between the majors and Triple-A, putting up a 4.92 ERA in 53 innings with Cincinnati. In December of 2001, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies in a four-player deal that also included, Pokey Reese, who would be his teammate in Pittsburgh as well.
Colorado dealt Reyes at the 2002 trade deadline to the Texas Rangers. Reyes became a free agent that off-season after going 4-4, 5.33 in 58 games between his two stops. He signed with the Pirates on February 7, 2003. The big lefty allowed just one earned run for the Pirates through the end of April before things went south quickly. In four May outings, totaling three innings, Reyes allowed 11 runs, earning his way out of Pittsburgh. He was released on May 19th and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks three weeks later. He pitched just as poorly for them during a brief September trial, finishing the year with a 10.66 ERA in 15 appearances. Reyes pitched for five different teams after leaving the Pirates, and was released by another (Baltimore Orioles) without playing a game for them. He spent the 2004 season with the Kansas City Royals, seeing some time as a starter. He went 4-8, 4.75 in 108 innings. He signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres for 2005, but he was released in July after putting up a 5.15 ERA in 43.2 innings. In 2006 for the Minnesota Twins, Reyes had a career year, going 5-0, 0.89 in 50.2 innings over 66 appearances. He didn’t have a single appearance all year with more than one earned run allowed. He took the lefty specialist role to an extreme in 2007, pitching a total of 29.1 innings over 50 appearances. He had a 3.99 ERA and his WHIP (1.88) was nearly double his 2006 mark. Reyes had a strong 2008 season with the Twins, with a 3-0, 2.33 record in 75 appearances and 46.1 innings. He moved on to the St Louis Cardinals in 2009 and put up two very similar seasons as far as workload and results. In 79 innings over 134 games, he had a 3.42 ERA. Reyes signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in 2011, but his stint there lasted just four games and 1.2 innings before being designated for assignment, which ended his big league career. Beginning in the winter of 2011-12, he pitched in pro ball in Mexico until the 2016-17 winter league season. Reyes pitched both summer and winter ball for the first four seasons, before only playing winter ball his last two years. He had a career big league record of 35-35, 4.21 in 726.2 innings over 673 games.
R.J. Reynolds, outfielder for the 1985-90 Pirates. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1980 January draft out of Sacramento City College. He debuted in the California League (Low-A at the time), hitting .281 in 86 games. The Dodgers moved Reynolds to their other Low-A team in the Florida State League in 1981 (The two leagues became High-A in 1990) and he put up similar overall stats in 132 games, seeing a four point drop to his batting average, along with a five point increase in his OPS (.678 in 1980 to .683 in 1981). He shifted back to the California League in 1982 and batted .313 with 25 steals and a .788 OPS in 108 games. Reynolds moved up to Triple-A in 1983, where he hit .337 with 18 homers, 89 RBIs, 103 runs scored and 43 steals in 133 games. That earned him a September promotion to the majors, where he batted .236 with two homers in 24 games. He began the 1984 season in the minors before joining the Dodgers in mid-May. He returned to the minors for all of August, but once he returned in September, he remained in the majors through the end of his time in Pittsburgh.
Reynolds hit .259 with four homers, 60 RBIs and 18 steals in 170 games for the Dodgers, spread out over the 1983-85 seasons, playing 73 games during each of those final two seasons. In August of 1985, the Pirates acquired him as the player to be named later, in the deal that sent veteran third baseman Bill Madlock to Los Angeles. Reynolds played 31 games for the Pirates that September, hitting .308 with 17 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. In 1986, he played all three outfield positions, getting the majority of his time in left field. He hit .269 with 30 doubles, 48 RBIs and 63 runs scored in 118 games that year. It was the only season during his eight-year career that the switch-hitting Reynolds cracked 400 at-bats in a season. He played 117 games in 1987, hitting .260 with 24 doubles, seven homers and 14 steals. The 1987 Pirates were just under .500 as a team, but when Reynolds started, they had a 44-35 record. He played a career high 130 games in 1988, although he came off of the bench in 62 of those games. He spent most of his time in right field that year, hitting .248 with 51 RBIs in 323 at-bats. Reynolds hit .270 in 125 games in 1989, while stealing a career high 22 bases (in 27 attempts). He then followed it up with a .288 average during the 1990 season. He was never much of a power hitter, topping out at nine homers in 1986, but in 1990 he failed to hit a single homer all year. He went 2-for-10 with two walks and no runs or RBIs in six postseason games that year. After being released by the Pirates following the 1990 season, Reynolds played three seasons in Japan (1991-93), one season in Mexico (1994) and he also managed one season in the minors for the Chicago White Sox in 2000. For the Pirates, he was a .269 hitter, with 31 homers, 234 RBIs and 91 steals in 616 games.