Six former Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. Before we get into those things, current Pirates pitcher JT Brubaker turns 28 today. He debuted in the majors in 2020 and made nine starts and two relief appearances. During the 2021 season, he went 5-13, 5.36 in 124.1 innings over 24 starts.
On this date in 1933 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded longtime left fielder Adam Comorosky and second baseman Tony Piet to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitcher Red Lucas and outfielder Wally Roettger. For the Pirates, who finished in second place with an 87-67 record, it was their biggest move of the off-season going into 1934. The trade seemed fairly even at the time, but Lucas was the only one to put in significant time with his new team. In five seasons with the Pirates, he won 47 games and was known as one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, getting occasional pinch-hitting at-bats throughout his career. In 1936, he posted a 15-4 record and he was used as a pinch-hitter in 43 games. Roettger played just 47 games in the fourth outfielder role with the Pirates, posting a .245 average in 109 at-bats. That was his last season in baseball. Piet slumped down to a .259 average in 1934 and he was not known as a strong fielder. He played until 1938, but never approached the 154-game total he played with the 1932 Pirates. His .298 career average at the time of the trade was down to .277 by the time he retired. Comorosky was a regular outfielder in 1934, hitting .258 in 127 games with no homers and 40 RBIs. The following year, which was his last in the majors, he hit just .248 in 137 at-bats.
Elias Diaz, catcher for the 2015-19 Pirates. Diaz was a low-priced international signing out of Venezuela in 2008, days before his 18th birthday. He moved slowly through the lower levels of the minors, reaching the big leagues as a September call-up in 2015. He debuted in the Venezuela Summer League in 2009, where he hit .272 with 20 extra-base hits in 64 games. In 2010, he moved up to the Gulf Coast League and batted just .218 with a .590 OPS in 41 games. His defense was advanced enough that he skipped to Low-A West Virginia of the South Atlantic League in 2011, where he batted .221 with 28 extra-base hits in 90 games. He repeated West Virginia in 2012 and his offense actually took a step back. He hit .208 in 92 games, seeing a 58 point drop in his already low OPS. Diaz finally broke out with the bat in 2013, both in the summer and in winter ball. Playing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, he hit .279 with a .781 OPS. In the winter, he played in Venezuela in a league that was about the same level as Double-A, and he held his own with a .698 OPS in 20 games. In 2014, Diaz spent most of the year with Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. He also played ten games for Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He hit .328 with 20 doubles, six homers and 54 RBIs in 91 games with Altoona. The Pirates sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the season and he had a .763 OPS in 15 games. He also put in another 14 games in Venezuela that winter.
Diaz opened up 2015 in Indianapolis, where he hit .271 with 24 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs in 93 games. He played just two games off of the bench during his first taste of the majors as a September call-up. In 2016, he played one July game with the Pirates, while missing most of the season with an elbow injury. Diaz was limited to 34 minor league games that year, though he got to make up for some missed time in Venezuela in the winter. He finally got his first real chance with the Pirates in 2017 and hit .223 with one homer and 19 RBIs in 64 games, though he played above average defense (0.7 dWAR). Diaz had his big season in 2018, hitting .286, with ten homers in 82 games, while once again providing above average defense. He was sidelined by a severe illness during Spring Training of 2019 and it not only kept him out of action for much of the early season, he also played poorly once he returned. In 101 games, he hit .241 with two homers and 28 RBIs, while showing a dip in his defense. He was let go after the season and signed with the Colorado Rockies for 2020. In 26 games during the shortened 2020 season, he hit .235 with two homers and nine RBIs. In 2021, Diaz batted .246 with 18 doubles and 18 homers in 106 games. In his seven seasons in the majors, he has a .248 average in 382 games, with 138 runs, 60 doubles, 33 homers and 135 RBIs.
Ty Taubenheim, pitcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the 44th round of the 2002 draft out of Edmonds Community College by the Oakland A’s. He decided to return to school for one more year and he moved up to a 19th round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. He debuted in pro ball with Helena of the short-season Pioneer League, where he had a 6-1, 2.05 record in 50.1 innings. In 2004, he played with Beloit of the Class-A Midwest League. He had a 5-3, 3.61 record and 12 saves in 92.1 innings over 47 appearances. Taubenheim pitched in relief during his first two seasons in pro ball before switching to a starting role. In 2005, he made 16 starts in the High-A Florida State League with Brevard County, going 10-2, 2.63 in 106 innings. He also made 11 starts for Double-A Huntsville of the Southern League, going 2-6, 4.36 in 64 innings. He was traded on December 7, 2005 to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he made his big league debut in 2006. The Blue Jays had him in Triple-A to start the 2006 season, before coming up in mid-May for almost two months. He went 2-4, 2.85 in 75.2 innings with Syracuse of the International League that season. Taubenheim made seven starts and five relief appearances during his rookie season in Toronto, posting a 4.89 ERA in 35 innings. He made one big league start in June of 2007 and allowed five runs over five innings. A majority of the 2007 season was spent in Syracuse, but he was doing so poorly at one point that he was sent back to Double-A for five starts.
The Pirates acquired Taubenheim on December 3, 2007 as a waiver pickup. He spent the year struggling with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, going 4-9, 5.60 in 98 innings over 19 starts, but his year had one major highlight. On June 28, 2008, he started against the Tampa Bay Rays and pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs. The Pirates ended up winning the game in 13 innings. That was his only game with the Pirates and the last Major League game of his career. Taubenheim spent all of 2009 at Triple-A for Pirates, doing better than the previous year with a 7-9, 3.65 record in 106 innings. He pitched winter ball in Mexico during the 2009-10 off-season, before finishing his pro career in 2010 in the Philadelphia Phillies system, where he saw more time in Double-A. He signed with the Texas Rangers for 2011, but he was released right before the season started. He went 1-5, 5.09 in 46 innings over nine starts and five relief appearances in the majors.
Jim Mann, relief pitcher for the 2003 Pirates. He signed as a 54th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 out of Massasoit Community College, though he was a draft-and-follow player back when draft rules allowed that. He actually signed in May of 1994. He spent his first season in the Gulf Coast League, where he went 3-2, 3.74 in 53 innings. In 1995, Mann pitched for Medicine Hat of the short-season Pioneer League, where he had a 5-4, 4.29 record in 77.2 innings over 14 starts. He made 23 starts total in his first two seasons of pro ball, then three more games in the final 12 seasons of his pro career. Mann was still in short-season ball in 1996, playing for St Catharines of the New York-Penn League. He had a 3.62 ERA and 17 saves in 27.1 innings over 26 games. He finally made it to full-season ball in his fourth season (1997), and split the year between Low-A and High-A, with poor results at both levels. Mann combined to go 1-1, 5.44 in 44.2 innings over 31 appearances. His 1998 season was spent back in High-A with Dunedin of the Florida State League, where he had a 3.04 ERA and 25 saves in 50.1 innings over 51 games. He started off strong with Double-A Knoxville of the Southern League in 1999, allowing one run in 92. innings. The rest of the year was spent with Syracuse of the Triple-A International League, where he had a 6-5, 4.64 record in 66 innings over 47 games.
The Blue Jays lost Mann in the 1999 Rule 5 draft to the New York Mets, though the teams worked out a deal in March of 2000 for him to remain in New York. Mann pitched two games for the Mets in 2000, allowing three runs in 2.2 innings. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Houston Astros, where he saw the majority of his big league time. He earned his big league shot by posting a 2.51 ERA and 27 saves in 68 innings over 53 games. Mann gave up two runs over 5.1 innings in four appearances with the Astros in 2001, then he posted a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings over 17 appearances in 2002. He had 22 saves in the minors that season. The Pirates acquired him via waivers just days after the 2002 season ended. He pitched two games for the Pirates in 2003, appearing on back-to-back days (July 31/August 1), allowing four runs over 1.2 innings. His full time with the Pirates was five days and he was designated for assignment on the same day he made his final appearance. He returned to the minors and the Pirates let him go at the end of the 2003 season, but they signed him again in June of 2004 after he was released by the New York Yankees. His second stint with the team lasted until he became a minor league free agent in October of 2004. After his second stint with the Pirates, Mann spent a brief time with the Boston Red Sox in Double-A (2005), while also putting in three years of independent ball. In his four partial seasons in the majors, he went 0-1, 4.83 in 31.2 innings over 25 relief appearances. He pitched 499 games and compiled 136 saves between his time in the minors and independent ball.
Tom Dettore, pitcher for the 1973 Pirates. He was drafted three times by the Pirates, finally signing as a third round pick in the 1968 draft. He was selected in the 26th round out of high school in Canonsburg, PA in 1965, then went in the ninth round out of Juniata College in 1967. He debuted in the minors in 1968 as a catcher, hitting .244 with a .654 OPS in 73 games for Gastonia of the Class-A Western Carolinas League. He pitched twice that season, then took up pitching full-time the next year and had immediate success. During his first full season as a pitcher, he went 12-3, 1.91 in 141 innings for Gastonia. He even got a brief trial with Triple-A Columbus of the International League, where he allowed three runs over seven innings of work. Back at this time, the Fall Instructional League was more organized, involved more advanced players, and they kept stats. Dettore had a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings that fall. Despite the strong showing in 1969, he was in Double-A with Waterbury of the Eastern League for all of 1970, where he posted a 6-11, 5.04 record in 125 innings. He repeated Waterbury in 1971 and had a 9-8, 2.40 record in 154 innings, with 12 complete games in 21 starts.
Back at Triple-A for the first time in three years (Pirates affiliate moved to Charleston in 1971), Dettore went 11-7, 3.06 in 159 innings in 1972. His big league debut came in early June of 1973, though he finished the season in the minors after spending five weeks in Pittsburgh. Dettore had a 9-5, 2.16 record in 129 innings with Charleston in 1973, and in one start and 11 relief appearances during his only season in Pittsburgh, he went 0-1, 5.96 in 22.2 innings. Prior to Opening Day in 1974, the Pirates traded Dettore to the Chicago Cubs for Paul Popovich. Dettore bounced between Triple-A and the majors during the 1974-76 seasons. He had a 3-5, 4.18 record in 64.2 innings for the 1974 Cubs, with nine starts and seven relief appearances. In 1975, he had a 5-4, 5.38 record in 85.1 innings, this time making five starts and 31 relief appearances. His time in the majors in 1976 was limited, with four appearances totaling seven innings, in which he allowed eight runs. He went 8-10, 5.10 in 157 innings over three seasons in Chicago, which was his only other big league time outside of Pittsburgh. He was released by the Cubs in early 1976 and signed with the San Diego Padres. His final time in pro ball was spent in Triple-A for the Padres (1976) and Triple-A for the St Louis Cardinals in 1977. He played in Italy for a time after his minor league career was over. After his playing days were over, he took up a second career as a pitching coach, which began in 1985 and ran into the 2012 season. It included time back with the Pirates (1989-98).
Orlando Pena, reliever for the 1970 Pirates. He spent 14 years in the majors pitching for eight different teams. He won 56 games and picked up 40 saves in his career. His pro career lasted 21 seasons, starting in 1955 when the Cincinnati Reds signed him out of Havana, Cuba at 21 years old. He played Class-D ball in his first season and dominated the level, going 21-8, 1.96 in 253 innings for Daytona Beach of the Florida State League. He moved up two levels in 1956 to play for High Point-Thomasville of the Carolina League, where he went 19-12, 2.46 in 286 innings, with 176 strikeouts and 26 complete games. The Reds had their Triple-A affiliate in Pena’s hometown of Havana and that’s where he spent the 1957-58 seasons. He went 12-10, 2.76 in 140 innings in 1957, then had an 11-10, 3.27 record in 154 innings. He got his first chance in the majors with the Reds that season and impressed, allowing one run in 15 innings over nine appearances. He saw plenty of big league time in 1959, but didn’t have the same success as his first big league trial. Pena went 5-9, 4.76 in 136 innings, with eight starts and 38 relief appearances. His big league time in 1960 was limited to four relief appearances in September.
After spending all of 1961 in the minors, Pena joined the Kansas City A’s in 1962 and spent parts of four seasons there. He had a 6-4, 3.01 record in 89.2 innings with the 1962 A’s. In 1963, he led the American League with 20 losses, despite a 3.69 ERA. He had 12 wins and pitched 217 innings. The 1964 season saw him set career highs with 219.1 innings and 184 strikeouts. He allowed 40 homers, which led the National League, and it’s been topped just 14 times in baseball history (at the time it was the fourth highest total ever). He finished that 1964 season with a 12-14, 4.43 record. Pena would play for the Detroit Tigers during the 1965-67 seasons, pitching strictly in relief the entire time. In his first season in Detroit, he went 4-6, 2.51 in 57.1 innings over 30 outings. He pitched 54 times in 1966, going 4-2, 3.08 with seven saves in 108 innings. He gave up three seasons over two innings for the Tigers before he was sold to the Cleveland Indians. Pena had a 3.36 ERA and eight saves in 88.1 innings over 48 games during his only season in Cleveland. He was in the minors for all of 1968 and 1969, before joining the Pirates. He was a member of the Seattle Pilots for two months during the 1968 season, but the actual big league team didn’t play until the 1969 season.
Pena was signed as a free agent by the Pirates on June 9, 1970 at 36 years old and he was released just over two months later. When he signed with the Pirates, he was serving as the batting practice pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. The two clubs played a mid-season exhibition game on June 8th and then he signed the next day. He went 2-1, 4.78 in 37.2 innings over 23 relief appearances during his only season in Pittsburgh. After he left Pittsburgh, Pena played for the Baltimore Orioles in 1971 and 1973, the St Louis Cardinals in 1973-74 and the California Angels in 1974-75. His time with the 1971 Orioles was limited to five appearances and he wasn’t around when Baltimore played the Pirates in the World Series. He had a 4.03 ERA in 44.2 innings with the 1973 Orioles, then improved greatly with his move to the Cardinals, where he had a 2.18 ERA in 62 innings to finish out the 1973 season. Pena had a strong 1974 season as well, posting a 2.21 ERA in 53 innings over 46 games. His time in 1975 was brief, but at 41 years old, he still had a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings. He finished the 1975 season in Triple-A with the Oakland A’s, then pitched one game in 1979, which was his final pro outing. Including his minor league stats and a season in Cuba, he threw over 3,000 innings in pro ball and he won exactly 200 games. His big league stats over 14 seasons show a 56-77, 3.71 record in 1,202 innings over 427 games. He made 93 starts and picked up 40 saves in the majors. He turns 88 years old today.
Don Flinn, outfielder for 1917 Pirates. He played pro ball from 1914 until 1926, but his big league career consisted of just one month with the 1917 Pirates. He debuted in the Class-D Western Association at 21 years old in 1914, where he split the season between two teams and had 58 runs scored, 15 steals and 42 extra-base hits in 101 games. The 1915 season had an interesting split, as he played at three different levels and did much worse the higher he went up the minor league ladder. He batted .358 in 58 games for Newnan of the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League. He hit .259 in 54 games for Norfolk of the Class-C Virginia League. Finally, he batted .182 in 18 games with Class-A Atlanta of the Southern Association. Late in the season, he was said to be given a trial with the New York Yankees, but never appeared in a game for them. In fact, it was falsely reported that he was sold to the Yankees for $1,500, but weeks later it was corrected to say his rights still belonged to Newnan. In 1916, Flinn hit .365 in 68 games for Newnan, while also seeing time with two teams in the Class-B Texas League, Waco and San Antonio. He spent the 1917 season in the Texas League, where he hit .300 with ten homers and 24 stolen bases in 109 games, splitting his season between San Antonio and Shreveport. He also pitched 56 innings that year, but didn’t see any mound time with the Pirates. Flinn was purchased by the Pirates on August 10th from the Shreveport Gassers, though he was allowed to finish his minor league season first before joining the team. He reported to the Pirates on September 2nd and got into that day’s game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. He ended up playing 14 games for the Pirates, hitting .297 with a double, triple, RBI and run scored.
Shortly after the 1917 season ended, the newspapers reported that Flinn would likely return to the minors, because despite the high average, he showed very little during his time in the majors. It didn’t take long to become official. The season ended on October 1st and exactly one week later, the rights to Flinn were returned to his Shreveport club. In 1918, he’s credited with playing just eight games with Shreveport. He missed the rest of the season while serving in the military in WWI where he received a Purple Heart. In 1919, he joined Dallas of the Texas League, where he hit .341 in 1919, then batted .241 in 1920, while also doing some pitching. The 1921-22 seasons were spent playing independent/semi-pro ball, before he rejoined the professional ranks at the lower levels. He played for two teams in the Class-D Texas Association in 1923, then saw action with three teams in 1924, one Class-C club and two Class-D teams. He ended up batted .332 with 31 extra-base hits in 69 games that season. After playing semi-pro ball in 1925, he finished his pro career with two Class-D clubs in 1926, hitting .393 in 55 games. The Texas newspapers often referred to him in print as the “Wild Irishman”. During his time in Pittsburgh, and for most of his career, he was called “Flynn”.