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 out of Grayson College. 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. LaRoche debuted in pro ball in the Pioneer League, where he saw just six games during that first season. In 2004 he split the year evenly between Low-A and High-A, hitting .261 with 33 doubles and 23 homers in 127 games, with better results at the lower level. In 2005, he split the year evenly between High-A (63 games) and Double-A (64 games), batting .305 with 26 doubles, 30 homers and 52 walks, once again putting up better results at the lower level. He had a 1.031 OPS for Vero Beach of the Florida State League that year. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .352 in 17 games. In 2006, LaRoche once again had an even split between two levels, spending the first half of the year in Double-A, where he hit .309, with a .901 OPS. After being promoted to Triple-A, he hit .322 with 14 doubles and ten homers in 55 games. In 2007, he spent the month of May with the Dodgers, then came back as a September call-up. In 35 games, he .226 with one homer and a .677 OPS. He had a .987 OPS in Triple-A that year. LaRoche opened up the 2008 season in Triple-A. He joined the Dodgers in mid-June and hit .203 with two homers in 27 games.
The Pirates acquired LaRoche at the 2008 trading deadline, as one of four players they received 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. In his six seasons in the majors, he hit .226 with 22 homers, 113 RBIs and 133 runs scored in 404 games.
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 at 22 years old. He was born in Puerto Rico, but he attended UNC-Charlotte and LSU before signing. Rios went to A-Ball his first season, playing for Clinton of the Midwest League. He hit .295 with 35 extra-base hits and 59 walks in 119 games that year. In 1995, he went to San Jose of the High-A California League, where he hit .293 with 45 extra-base hits, 51 steals and 74 walks in 128 games. He spent the next two years at Double-A Shreveport, where he .283 with 22 doubles and 12 homers in 92 games in 1996, followed by a .289 average, with 86 runs scored, 30 doubles, 14 homers, 17 steals and 63 walks in 127 games in 1997. He was promoted to Triple-A in 1998 and put up big numbers for Fresno of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .301 with 85 runs scored, 23 doubles, 26 homers, 103 RBIs and 17 steals in 125 games. Rios made his Major League debut a few weeks before his 27th birthday, getting a brief trial at the end of the 1998 season. In 12 games, he was given just ten plate appearances, but he made the most of them, going 4-for-7 with two homers and three walks. 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, seeing most of his time in right field.
The Pirates acquired Rios and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong on July 30, 2001 from the San Francisco Giants for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. Rios was hitting .260 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs at the time of the deal. He 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. Rios 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. He was released by the Pirates following the 2002 season when they balked at going to arbitration with him. It turned out to be a wise decision. He played 49 games for the 2003 Chicago White Sox, hitting .212 with two homers and a .544 OPS, then spent the rest of his career in the minors. He spent time in the Baltimore Orioles and St Louis Cardinals system in 2004, as well as a stint in Mexico. Rios started playing winter ball in Puerto Rico and Mexico during the 2004-05 off-season, and he continued to play winter ball each year through the 2010-11 off-season, but his last summer ball action was in 2005 when he played independent ball. In his six seasons in the majors, he hit .269 with 36 homers, 167 RBIs and 135 runs scored in 419 games. Despite 51 steals in one minor league season, he had just 17 stolen bases in the majors.
Denny Neagle, pitcher for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was a third round pick in 1989 of the Minnesota Twins out of the University of Minnesota. He debuted in pro ball in the Appalachian League, before moving up to Class-A to finish the 1989 season. He pitched six games as each level, with a 4.50 ERA in short-season ball, followed by a 1.65 ERA in 43.2 innings in A-Ball. In 1990, Neagle made ten starts in High-A and posted an 8-0, 1.43 record in 63 innings. He was then promoted to Double-A, where he had a 12-3, 2.45 record in 17 starts. He spent the 1991 season in Triple-A, playing for Portland of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 9-4, 3.27 record in 104.2 innings. He made three starts and four relief appearances for the Twins that year, going 0-1, 4.05 in 20 innings. 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 same day. Neagle pitched mainly out of the bullpen during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh with lackluster results. He was 4-6, 4.48 in 86.1 innings over 55 games in 1992. That was followed by a 3-5, 5.31 record in 81.1 innings over 50 appearances. Neagle became a full-time starter during the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he went 9-10, 5.12 in 137 innings over 24 outings.
The 1995 season started a few weeks late and things clicked for Neagle at some point over the long off-season. He went 13-8, 3.43 that season, leading the National League in starts (31) and innings pitched (209.2). He made the All-Star team for the first of two times during his career. 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 182.2 innings over 27 starts. He had a 5.59 ERA in six starts after the trade. His time with the Pirates helped him to an eighth place finish in the Cy Young voting. Even though the Pirates did well with Jason Schmidt as the the return, they got rid of Neagle one year too soon. He went 20-5, 2.97 in 233.1 innings over 34 starts in 1997, setting a career best with 172 strikeouts. He threw four complete games that year and all four were shutouts. He made his second All-Star appearance and he finished third in the Cy Young voting. In 1998 he was 16-11, 3.55 in 210.1 innings, pitching his last season for the Braves.
Neagle was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1998 season. He spent one full year in Cincinnati, though he was limited to 19 starts in 1999. He had a 9-5, 4.27 record in 111.2 innings. He was traded to the New York Yankees in the middle of the 2000 season and saw a major drop in his performance. With the Reds in 117.2 innings, he had a 3.52 ERA. After the trade, Neagle had a 5.81 ERA in 91.1 innings. He signed a free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies after the season, which did not go well. He ended up playing just over two years of a five-year/$51 M contract. In 30 starts in 2001, he had a 9-8, 5.38 record over 170.2 innings. The next year he had an 8-11, 5.26 record in 28 starts and seven relief appearances, throwing a total of 164.1 innings. In his final season in the majors, Neagle had a 7.90 ERA in seven starts. He was injured for the 2004 season and then legal issues caused the Rockies to cancel the final year of his deal. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 2005, but injuries ended his career that year. Neagle went 124-92, 4.24 in his career over 13 seasons in the majors, throwing a total of 1,890.1 innings. With the Pirates, he went 43-35, 4.02 in 697 innings over 95 starts and 92 relief appearances.
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 went 8-4, 4.48 in 96 innings, with 90 walks 135 strikeouts for Class-D Salem of the Appalachian League in 1957 after signing right out of high school on June 25th. He got a Spring Training invite to the Pirates in 1958, but he was among the early cuts. He moved up to Grand Forks of the Class-C Northern League in 1958, where he was 6-8, 5.12 in 102 innings, with 93 walks and 73 strikeouts. He stayed in Class-C ball in 1959, moving to Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League, where he went 13-10, 4.57 in 187 innings, with 97 walks and 207 strikeouts. He made the large jump to Triple-A in 1960 and had 12-7, 3.19 record in 189 innings for Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. He went to Spring Training that year with the Pirates before being sent to Salt Lake City. In October, the Pirates sent infielder Dick Barone to Salt Lake City in exchange for Parsons. The next three years were spent with Columbus of the International League.
Parsons went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1961 and was with the team until April 4th when they trimmed the roster to 28 players. He went 4-3, 4.75 in 16 starts in 1961 for Columbus, seeing limited action due to a sore arm. He then had a 9-10, 4.31 record in 163 innings in 1962 after being cut from the Spring Training roster on March 31st. Before getting his Major League debut in 1963 as a September call-up, he had an 11-15, 3.47 record in 174 innings for Columbus. He got a late start to the season due to serving briefly in the Marines over the off-season and into Spring Training. On Sept. 5th, Parsons started for the Pirates 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. He came down with right shoulder tendinitis after that game and was shut down until the following Spring.
Parsons was one of the last cuts during Spring Training in 1968. His case wasn’t helped by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a short time in March. He had an 8-7, 4.20 record in 137 innings at Triple-A in 1964. In September, he was sold to the New York Mets, who used him four times that year. He then he saw regular big league action during the 1965 season when he went 1-10, 4.67 in 11 starts and 24 relief appearances, throwing a total of 90.2 innings. 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 82 years old today. His cousin Art Lamb pitched in the Pirates minor league system in 1959, but had to retire due to an arm injury at 18 years old. His other cousin John Lamb, made it to the majors with the Pirates during the 1970-71 and 1973 seasons.