This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 27th, Pirates Sign Elmer Dessens and Pascual Perez

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and two transactions of note, but before we get into them, current outfielder Bryan Reynolds is celebrating his 27th birthday today. He will get a bio when he’s a former player, which I’m sure most of you are hoping is a long time from now.

The Transactions

On this date in 1976, the Pirates signed pitcher Pascual Perez as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican. He played two years for the Pirates (1980-81) before being traded to the Atlanta Braves even up for pitcher Larry McWilliams. Perez had a 2-8, 3.94 record in 98.1 innings with the Pirates and a career 67-68, 3.44 record in 11 Major League seasons.He went 29-16 during the 1983-84 seasons and made the All-Star team in 1983. He was signed at 18 years old and had a breakout season two years later in High-A ball, when he went 11-7, 2.61 in 24 starts and 152 innings. He threw five shutouts that season and finished the year with one start in Triple-A. Perez’s time in Pittsburgh was somewhat limited due to the mid-season strike in 1981. At the time of the strike, he had been in the starting rotation four weeks, then ended up going exactly two months between starts. Before his trade in 1982, he was struggling in Triple-A, but the Pirates were still able to get strong value in return with the acquisition of McWilliams.

On this date in 1993, the Pirates signed Elmer Dessens as a 22-year-old amateur free agent out of Mexico. He played parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh (1996-98) as part of a 14-year career in the majors. After pitching a total of 28.1 innings with the Pirates during the 1996-97 seasons, Dessens made 43 appearances in 1998, including five starts. In 74.2 innings, he went 2-6, 5.67 with 43 strikeouts. He was released by the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 1999. He had a career record of 52-64, 4.44 in 1,174.1 innings over 441 games. Dessens played for nine different teams in the majors, including eight National League clubs.

The Players

Mike Zagurski, pitcher for the 2013 Pirates. He pitched six innings over six appearances during his brief time in Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the Pirates, he pitched parts of three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and one with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Phillies drafted him out of the University of Kansas in 2005 in the 12th round. He debuted in pro ball with Batavia of the short-season New York-Penn League, where he made eight starts and seven relief appearances. Zagurski started just two more games over the rest of his 13-year pro career. He went 3-4, 4.60 in 45 innings, with 43 strikeouts for Batavia. He spent the entire 2006 season in Low-A ball with Lakewood of the South Atlantic League, where he went 4-4, 3.51 in 42 appearances, with 75 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He then managed to fly threw the next three levels of the minors in 2007, going so fast through those steps that he was able to make 25 appearances in the majors with the Phillies that season. Despite the quick path to the big show, Zagurski didn’t appear in the majors again until nearly three full years later. That span was partially due to Tommy John surgery, which occurred just before the start of the 2008 season. For the 2007 Phillies, he had a 5.91 ERA in 21.1 innings, with 21 strikeouts.

After missing the entire 2008 season, Zagurski pitched with Reading of the Double-A Eastern League for almost all of the 2009 season. Including three brief rehab appearances with Clearwater of the High-A Florida State League, he had a 3.38 ERA, eight saves and 64 strikeouts in 56 innings over 48 games. The 2010 season was mostly spent with Lehigh Valley of the Triple-A International League, where he had a 3.27 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. He pitched eight times for the Phillies that season, appearing with the club in June/July and then again in September.  Zagurski went back to Lehigh Valley for most of 2011 and posted a 2.65 ERA, 11 saves and 63 strikeouts in 54.1 innings over 46 appearances. Despite the success, his time in the majors that year was limited to four games over two separate stints. After pitching a total of 10.1 innings over 12 appearances with the 2010-11 Phillies, Zagurski was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2012 season ended up being his best in the majors, with 45 appearances and a 5.54 ERA in 37.1 innings. He was signed by the Pirates as a free agent during the 2012-13 off-season and started the year with Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He had a 2.14 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 21 innings with Indianapolis before being called up to the Pirates in late May. He allowed ten runs on ten hits and eight walks in his six innings in Pittsburgh. His final appearance was five runs in one inning of work.

Zagurski was released by the Pirates in late June of 2013 and he signed with the New York Yankees, who released him on August 15th without a big league appearance. Despite being released so late in the year, he still managed to finish the season back with the Yankees after making a brief two-week stop with the Oakland A’s in the minors. He got into one game for the Yankees during his second stint and allowed two runs while recording just one out. Zagurski signed with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent in November of 2013 and he split the 2014 season between the Indians and Toronto Blue Jays in Triple-A. From there he went to Japan for the 2015-16 seasons. Zagurski returned to the U.S. in 2017 in the Detroit Tigers organization, splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A. He made it back to the majors in 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers for two games, which did not go well. After beginning the season with a strong performance in Triple-A, he joined the Brewers in late June. He allowed a total of seven earned runs in one inning of work over those two outings. He last played pro ball during the winter of 2018-19 in the Dominican. In 91 Major League appearances, he had a 1-1, 7.78 record in 76.1 innings.

Otis Clymer, right fielder for the 1905-07 Pirates. He got a later start in pro ball and didn’t have much of a resume before making him big league debut at 29 years old. He played for Newark of the Eastern League in 1902 at 26 years old and Buffalo of the Eastern League in 1904, where he hit .294 in 126 games, with 18 doubles and eight triples. That was his only pro experience before making the majors. He spent time in the military and played local ball near his home in Altoona before going pro. In between those two Eastern League teams, he played independent ball for a team from Williamsport, Pa in 1903. After being acquired via trade during the 1904-05 off-season (see details below), he was on the 1905 Opening day roster for Pittsburgh. Clymer hit .296 in 96 games as a rookie, with 23 stolen bases and 74 runs scored. The Pirates had planned for him to be their regular right fielder for 1906, but just 11 games into the schedule, he broke his leg sliding into a base and missed the rest of the season. Clymer returned healthy for the 1907 season, although he struggled with a .227 average through 22 games when the Pirates decided to sell him to the Washington Senators on June 26th. They seemed to give up on him too soon because he finished the year hitting .316 in 57 games with Washington.

Clymer would go on to play two more seasons for the Senators. He had a decent season in 1908, but struggling badly at the plate in 1909. He hit .253 in 110 games in 1908, with 32 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs and 19 steals. It was the deadball era, so those weren’t bad stats. The 1909 season was bad regardless of the era, as he was hitting .196 through 45 games before being sent to the minors to play for Minneapolis of the American Association, a Class-A level up to 1911, before being reclassified to Double-A in 1912. Clymer would play the next three seasons in Minneapolis and hit over .300 each year, topping out at .342 in 1911, while also hitting 48 doubles that year. He was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft following the 1912 season, returning to the majors at age 37. He would last only 30 games with the Cubs before they sold him to the Boston Doves. Clymer hit .324 with six RBIs in 14 games for the Doves, but they still released him in early August. He finished his career with two more seasons in the minors before retiring, returning to Minneapolis for part of that time. While with the Pirates he hit .282 in 129 games. Overall he batted .267 in 385 Major League games, with 182 runs, two homers and 98 RBIs. Both of his career homers were inside-the-park homers. One started a game, while the other was part of a cycle he hit on October 2, 1908.

The Pirates acquired him in an odd way, during a five-player trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. On December 20, 1904, the Pirates sent three big league players to the Phillies for first baseman Del Howard, who had no big league experience. It seemed like a very odd trade at the time, but there was a hidden part to the deal that couldn’t be announced at the time. Clymer played in the minors for Buffalo in 1904 and had a lot of potential suitors among the Major League clubs, including the Pirates. He drew attention by hitting .294 in 126 games. His contract was sold in September to Brooklyn, who then put him on waivers in December, hoping to send him back to the minors. The Philadelphia Phillies claimed him and then agreed to trade him to the Pirates, but it couldn’t be announced on December 20th due to paperwork issues. The holdup stemmed from the fact that teams had to write up formal releases back then, and it took until January 21st to get all of that done, with Brooklyn releasing him to the Phillies and the Phillies releasing him to the Pirates to complete the trade.

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