This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 4th, Pirates Sign Lance Parrish and Lonnie Smith

Three former Pirates born on this date, plus two transactions of note. Before we get into all of that, current reliever Blake Cederlind turns 25 today.

The Transactions

On this date in 1993, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent outfielder Lonnie Smith to a one-year contract. Smith was 37 years old at the time of the deal, a veteran of 15 big league seasons, who had hit .247 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 84 games for the Atlanta Braves in 1992. He stole as many as 68 bases in a season before joining the Pirates, four times topping the 40-steal mark. However, after stealing 25 bases in 1986, Smith topped ten steals just one time in the next six seasons. He hit over .300 six times in his career, with the last time coming in 1990 when he batted .305 for the Braves. With the Pirates, Smith played left field and was used often as a pinch-hitter. In 94 games he hit .286 with six homers, nine steals, 24 RBIs and 43 walks. In early September he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for two players to be named later. Both ended up being career minor leaguers. Smith ended up playing nine games for the Orioles in 1993 and another 35 for them in 1994, with his career ending with the strike that ended the 1994 season early. He hit .288 career with 370 steals and 909 runs scored in 1,613 games.

On this date, in 1996, the Pirates signed free agent catcher Lance Parrish to a one-year contract. Just two years prior, the Pirates bought his contract from the Detroit Tigers. In 1994 he hit .270 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 40 games for the Pirates. He spent the 1995 season in Toronto hitting just .202 in 70 games. Parrish, an eight time All-Star, was 39 years old at the time of his signing in 1996. He ended up getting cut on March 21st after hitting .190 during Spring Training. He took a job in the Kansas City Royals system as a catching instructor, ending his playing career. He was a career .252 hitter with 324 homers and 1,070 RBIs. Parrish won three Gold Glove awards and six Silver Slugger awards. He is 13th all-time in games caught and only four catchers have hit more homers while behind the plate.

The Players

John Raynor, outfielder for the Pirates during the 2010 season. He was signed as a ninth round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2006 out of UNC-Wilmington. The previous year, the Baltimore Orioles selected him in the 12th round, but he decided to return to college. He debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2006, where he hit .286 in 54 games, with 16 extra-base hits, 21 steals and 36 runs scored. In his first full season in 2007 while playing for Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, Raynor was named as the league’s MVP. He hit .333, scored 110 runs, stole 54 bases (in 62 attempts) and he posted a .948 OPS in 116 games. He hit 28 doubles, eight triples and 13 homers. Raynor moved up to Double-A (Carolina of the Southern League) in 2008 and batted .312, with 29 doubles, 13 homers, 48 stolen bases and 104 runs scored, while finishing with an .890 OPS. He had a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season, where he hit .364 with ten RBIs in eight games. Raynor was in Triple-A in 2009 with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. The jump proved to be a tough one for him, as he hit just .257 in the hitter-friendly PCL, with 24 doubles and six homers in 123 games. He saw a 203 point drop in his OPS versus the previous season, while stealing just 19 bases all year.

That down year led to the Marlins leaving Raynor off of their 40-man roster, and the Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft on December 10, 2009. He stuck with the team on Opening Day in 2010 despite hitting .229 with three walks and no steals in 23 Spring Training games. Pittsburgh used him in 11 early season games in 2010 off of the bench, with eight of those appearances coming as a pinch-hitter. Raynor went 2-for-10 with two singles and he scored one run with the Pirates. He played three games in the field for the Pirates, but he never got a big league start. Pittsburgh decided to return him to the Marlins on May 4th, getting back half of their fee paid for the Rule 5 selection.  He missed most of the rest of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, playing just 43 minor league games for the Marlins in New Orleans (two games were rehab outings in the Gulf Coast League). He went to camp with the Marlins in 2011, but didn’t make the team as asked for his release instead of reporting to minor league camp. He retired from baseball and went back to college at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington where he also coached for their baseball team while finishing school.

Brian O’Connor, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995 out of high school in Reading, Ohio. His minor league career got off to a great start in 1995, as he posted a 1.88 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 43 innings in the Gulf Coast League as an 18-year-old. It was fleeting success. He would he post an ERA over 4.00 during the rest of his time with the Pirates. In 1996, he split the season between Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he was a reliever to start the year. He then made 15 starts a level lower in the New York-Penn League. O’Connor combined to go 4-11, 4.89 in 103 innings, with 97 strikeouts. He had much better results at the higher level, posting a 3.06 ERA as a reliever. In 1997, he went 2-7, 4.41 in 85.2 innings, with 91 strikeouts for Augusta. He pitched in relief for Lynchburg of the Carolina League and had a 3.46 ERA in 11 appearances. In 1998, O’Connor went 6-2, 2.60 in 14 starts for Lynchburg, with 84 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. However, he had a very rough time with Double-A Carolina of the Southern League that same year, going 2-4, 8.25 in 64.1 innings over 13 starts and a relief appearance. In 1999, he spent the entire season in Double-A, as the Pirates affiliate switched to Altoona of the Eastern League that year. O’Connor started 27 games (also pitched in relief once), going 7-11, 4.70 in 153.1 innings, with 106 strikeouts, which was a sharp drop in his strikeout rate from previous seasons.

O’Connor began the 2000 season repeating Double-A, where he went 3-2, 4.23 in the first six weeks of the season. On May 13th he was called up to the Pirates to make a spot start with Francisco Cordova on the disabled list. While the the Pirates ended up winning 11-8, O’Connor was pulled in the 3rd inning after allowing the first three batters to reach base. He gave up six total runs and was returned to the minors the next day. He ended up splitting the 2000 minor league season between Double-A and Triple-A, doing much better in the lower level (12-4, 3.76) than in Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 6.84 ERA in five starts. The Pirates recalled him in September and he made five relief appearances, giving up just one earned run over 10.1 innings. He played in the minors until 2006, but never returned to the majors. He split the 2001 season at Nashville between starting and relief work, going 6-9, 6.21 in 111.2 innings over 16 starts and 21 relief outings. In 2002, he spent nearly the entire season back with Altoona, where he had a 5.06 ERA in 85.1 innings over 14 starts and ten relief outings. The Pirates let him go via free agency after the 2002 season, and then he spent time in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system (2003), independent ball (2003), then finished up with two years in Double-A/Triple-A for the Atlanta Braves (2005-06). He did not play during the 2004 season.

Jay Tibbs, pitcher for the 1990 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick out of high school in Alabama by the New York Mets in 1980. At 18 years old, he debuted with Kingsport of the short-season Appalachian League, where he went 3-7, 4.38 in 76 innings over 12 starts. In 1981, he split the year between two Class-A teams, playing for Shelby of the South Atlantic League and Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Tibbs went 6-15, 5.20 in 161 innings that year, with much better results at Shelby, where he had a 3.84 ERA in 89 innings. His 1982 season was interrupted by injury, which limited him to seven starts and one relief appearance. He went 14-8, 2.92 in 203.2 innings in Lynchburg in 1983, then got selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft in December. He was returned to the Mets on March 29, 1984 for half of the draft cost and split the first 2 1/2 months of the season between Double-A and Triple-A. Tibbs made his MLB debut in 1984, getting called up to the majors exactly one month after he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-player deal on June 15th. In 14 starts that season for the Reds, he went 6-2, 2.86 in 100.1 innings. He had an impressive sophomore campaign, going 10-16, 3.92 in 218 innings over 34 starts (and one relief outing) during the 1985 season.

Tibbs was traded to the Montreal Expos in a six-player deal completed on December 19, 1985. He went 7-9, 3.97 in 190.1 innings over 31 starts and four relief appearances in 1986. His 117 strikeouts that season were a career high and the only time he reached the century mark. In 1987, he went 4-5, 4.99 in 81.1 innings over 12 starts and seven relief outings. His poor performance led to a trip to Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, where he had a 2.99 ERA in 12 starts. He spent two seasons north of the border, then got dealt to the Baltimore Orioles during Spring Training in 1988.  He went 4-15, 5.39 in 158.2 innings over 24 starts and six relief outings during his first season in Baltimore, then saw limited work in 1989 due to an arm surgery. Tibbs managed to go 5-0, 2.82 with the Orioles in 1989 and 3-0, 0.93 in four rehab starts, so he finished a rough season with a perfect record.

Tibbs was healthy in 1990 and spent the first three months of the season in Baltimore. The Pirates acquired him June 25, 1990 from the Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later. That turned out to be pitcher Dorn Taylor, who was sent to Baltimore on September 5th. Tibbs was just 2-7, 5.68 in 50.2 innings over ten starts for the Orioles at the time of the deal. He pitched five games for the Pirates over a ten-day stretch, all in relief, giving up two runs in seven innings. He was optioned to the minors on July 12th to make room for Bob Walk coming off of the disabled list. Tibbs pitched two games in Triple-A Buffalo before a sore shoulder ended his season early. He was invited to Spring Training the next season, but did not make the team, so he decided to retire. He had a 49-54, 4.20 record in 862.2 innings over seven Major League seasons, with 133 starts and 25 relief appearances.

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