This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 13th, Claude Hendrix, Steve Pearce and Ricardo Rincon

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date.

Steve Pearce, first baseman/right fielder for the 2007-11 Pirates. He went undrafted out of high school, but he still managed to be drafted three times before he signed with the Pirates. Pearce was first chosen in the 45th round in 2003 by the Minnesota Twins out of Indian River Community College. The next season he transferred to the University of South Carolina and moved up to a tenth round pick. He finally signed in 2005 after the Pirates selected him in the eighth round. Pearce hit .302 with 26 doubles, seven homers and 52 RBIs in 72 games for Williamsport of the short-season New York-Penn League during his first season of pro ball. He moved up to low-A ball to start 2006, splitting the season between Hickory of the South Atlantic League, and Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League. He hit a combined .273 that year, with 40 doubles, 26 homers, 97 RBIs and 83 runs scored. Pearce repeated High-A ball to start the 2007 season, spending 19 games with Lynchburg, then quickly worked his way up the system, finishing the year in the majors. Between three stops in the minors, including Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League (81 games) and Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League (34 games), he hit .333 with 94 runs, 40 doubles, 31 homers, 113 RBIs and a 1.016 OPS. In the majors that September he hit .294 in 23 games, finishing with a .740 OPS.

Pearce started the 2008 season at Indianapolis, before getting recalled in July. His numbers were well off the previous season, hitting .251 with 26 doubles, 12 homers and a .730 OPS in 103 games. He hit .248 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 37 games for the Pirates. In 2009, he was hitting .286 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs through 77 games at Indianapolis when he got his third shot at the majors. He played a career high 60 games with the Pirates that year, hitting .206 with 13 doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs. He opened his season at Triple-A for the third straight year in 2010, this time getting recalled in early May. He was hitting .276.395/.414 through 15 games, when he injured his ankle at first base chasing down an errant throw from third baseman Delwyn Young. Pearce would not return to the Pirates that season. In 2011 he made his first Opening Day roster, but hit just .202 in 50 games, with a .515 OPS. He missed nearly two months with a calf muscle tear that occurred in late May, then his season ended early due to a finger injury suffered when he dove for a ball at third base on August 22nd. He ended up playing just 12.2 innings at third base over the rest of his career after that injury.

The Pirates let Pearce go in November of 2011 and he went on to play with the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays (the entire AL East and the Astros) after leaving the Pirates. In the 2012 season alone, he saw time with the Orioles, Astros and Yankees, while playing just 61 games total. In fact, he had two stints with the Yankees and Orioles that season, moving around five times throughout the year. He combined to hit .239 with eight doubles, four homers and a .705 OPS. Pearce spent part of the 2013 season with the Orioles in the majors, hitting .261 with four homers in 44 games, though once again his limited time was injury related, as he was out six weeks in the June/July with a wrist injury. He had his best big league season in 2014, playing a career high 102 games. He hit .293, while setting career highs with 21 homers, 26 doubles, 51 runs scored, 40 walks, 49 RBIs and a .930 OPS. In 2015, Pearce saw his average drop to .218 in 92 games, though he had 15 homers and 40 RBIs, to go along with a .711 OPS.

Pearce split the 2016 season between Baltimore and Tampa Bay, with much better results for the Rays. He actually signed a free agent deal with the Rays and hit .309 with ten homers in 60 games, then was traded to the Orioles in August, where he hit .217 in 25 games. He went from a .908 OPS in Tampa, down to a .729 mark with Baltimore. Despite playing for the Orioles each year from 2013 through 2016, it was actually three separate stints with the team. Pearce spent the 2017 season with the Blue Jays, hitting .252 with 38 runs, 17 doubles, 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 92 games. He split the 2018 season between Toronto and Boston, hitting .284 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 76 games, with similar results for both teams. He had an .890 OPS on the season. In the postseason that year, he batted .333 in the first round, homered in the second round, then took home MVP honors in the World Series by hitting .333 with three homers and eight RBIs. Pearce was limited to 29 games in 2019, and he hit .180 with one homer. He missed the start of the season due to a calf injury, then didn’t play after May 31st due to back and knee injuries. He retired after the 2019 season. In 13 big league seasons, he hit .254 in 766 games, with 290 runs, 131 doubles, 91 homers and 303 RBIs. With the Pirates, he hit .232, with 50 runs, 29 doubles, nine homers and 52 RBIs in 185 games.

Ricardo Rincon, pitcher for the 1997-98 Pirates. He pitched in the Mexican League (considered to be Triple-A level of play) for seven seasons prior to signing with the Pirates before Spring Training in 1997. He debuted with Union Laguna at age 20 in 1990 and spent his first four seasons there. The Pirates first noticed him playing winter ball in Mexico during the 1996-97 off-season. He was property of the Mexico City Reds, a team that had a working agreement with the Pirates, so Pittsburgh was able to acquire his rights. He had played his last three seasons with Mexico City before joining the Pirates. Rincon received a Spring Training invite, and the initial expectations were that he would start out in the U.S. in the minors, but he ended up making the big league team on Opening Day. His full stats from Mexico aren’t available, but during the 1996 season, he had a 2.97 ERA in 78.2 innings over 50 appearances, with ten saves and 60 strikeouts. During his first season in the majors, he pitched 62 games in relief, getting into a total of 60 innings. Rincon had a 4-8, 3.45 record, with four saves and 71 strikeouts. On July 12, 1997, he pitched the final inning (and picked up the win) of a ten-inning no-hitter started by Francisco Cordova, which is the last no-hitter thrown by the Pirates.

Rincon began the 1998 season in the minors due to a Spring Training hamstring injury, making three rehab appearances before he returned to Pittsburgh. He made 60 appearances out of the bullpen that year, getting into a total of 65 innings, with 64 strikeouts, a 2.91 ERA and 14 saves. On November 18, 1998, the Pirates dealt Rincon to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Brian Giles. The Pirates won that one-sided trade, but Rincon did well in limited work as a lefty specialist during his time in Cleveland. In 207 appearances over 3 1/2 seasons with the Indians, he had a 3.73 ERA and pitched a total of 154.1 innings. In 1999, he went 2-3, 4.43 in 44.2 innings over 59 appearances. He missed five weeks early in the season with an elbow injury. In 2000, he had a 2-0, 2.70 record in 35 appearances, though he pitched just 20 innings total. Another elbow injury sidelined him from mid-May until late August. Rincon was healthy in 2001, when he had a 2-1, 2.83 record in 54 innings over 67 appearances. He had 18 saves during his two seasons in Pittsburgh, but after leaving the team, he recorded just three more saves. Two of those saves came during the 2001 season.

During the 2002 season, Rincon was traded to the Oakland A’s, where he continued the lefty specialist role. In 3 1/2 seasons with Oakland, he made 223 appearances and pitched just 157 innings. He was 1-4, 4.79 in 35.2 innings over 46 outings before the trade to Oakland. After the deal, he finished the season off by going 0-0, 3.10, with one save in 20.1 innings and 25 appearances. His 71 games pitched that season set a career high. In 2003, Rincon went 8-4, 3.25 in 55.1 innings over 64 games. That win/loss record is interesting because he had just 21 wins in his 11-year career, but he also finished with a losing record, going 13-20 in his other seasons. In 2004, he had a 1-1, 3.68 record in 67 games, with 44 innings pitched. The A’s went to the extreme with his lefty specialist usage during the 2005 season when he pitched 67 times and threw a total of 37.1 innings. He actually pitched two innings in one mid-season game. He really struggled against right-handed batters during his career, and they put up a .907 OPS against him in 50 at-bats during the 2005 season. He had a 1-1, 4.34 record in that season, his last in Oakland.

Rincon signed as a free agent with the St Louis Cardinals in December of 2005. He injured his shoulder during Spring Training and tried to pitch through it early in the season, but after five April appearances, his season was over. He gave up four runs and ten base runners in 3.1 innings. The Cardinals cut him on the last day of Spring Training in 2007, despite one year remaining on his $2.9 M two-year deal. Rincon pitched briefly for the San Francisco Giants in Triple-A in 2007, then pitched poorly in a brief run during the Mexican winter league that off-season. His big league career ended with two runs in four innings over eight appearances with the 2008 New York Mets, after they signed him as a free agent in late January. When he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, he was loaned to Mexico of the Mexican League for the season, then rejoined the Mets in September to finish out his big league career. Rincon was far from done in pro ball at that point. He returned to Mexico in 2009 and then played there through the 2012-13 winter season, playing both summer and winter ball during three of his final five seasons. For his big league career, he had a 21-24, 3.59 record in 565 games, all as a reliever, with 21 saves and 443.2 innings pitched. With the Pirates, he was 4-10, 3.17 in 125 innings over 122 games.

Doug Strange, infielder for the 1998 Pirates. He began his career in the Detroit Tigers system after getting drafted in the seventh round out of North Carolina State in 1985. He debuted in the short-season Appalachian League, where he hit .305 with an .835 OPS in 65 games for Bristol. The Tigers moved him up to Class-A in 1986, where he batted .255 with 29 doubles and 18 steals in 126 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League with Lakeland. His OPS dropped 142 points, yet he was still above average for the league. Strange began the next season in Double-A with Glen Falls of the Eastern League, where he batted .302 with 63 runs, 31 doubles, 13 homers and 70 RBIs in 115 games. He ended up in Triple-A (Toledo of the International League) for the final month of 1987 and hit .244 in 16 games. He had a rough 1988 season that was once again split between Glen Falls and Toledo. He combined to hit .236, with a .597 OPS in 139 games. He had a low walk rate and a drop in his power, though there was one positive. Strange went 5-for-16 in stolen base attempts in 1987, then went 20-for-28 in 1988. The rough patch in 1988 turned out to be just a one-year setback.

Strange first played in the majors in 1989, when he hit .214/.280/.260 in 64 games for the Tigers. He had a .713 OPS in 83 games in Toledo that season before debuting with Detroit in mid-July. He was traded to the Houston Astros at the end of Spring Training in 1990, but his stay there didn’t even last two months, and he spent the entire time in Triple-A. He was released in late May and signed with the Chicago Cubs two weeks later. He spent the rest of the season in Triple-A, combining to hit .283, with 26 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs in 119 games between the two stops. Strange appeared in the majors briefly in 1991 with the Cubs, playing three games in early September, before a shoulder injury ended his season early. He put up a .293 average and a .780 OPS for Iowa of the American Association prior to being called up. Strange played 52 big league games in 1992, hitting .160 in 94 at-bats. He made 19 starts at third base and two at second base, with his other 31 games coming off of the bench. Chicago let him leave via free agency in December of 1992 and he signed with the Texas Rangers. He had his best season in the majors in 1993 as the starting second baseman for Texas, putting up a .256 average, with 58 runs, 26 doubles, seven homers and 60 RBIs in 145 games. Strange wasn’t able to repeat those numbers the next season, which was shortened due to the strike. He hit just .212 in 73 games, though similar power numbers led to his OPS only dropping 69 points.

Strange moved on to the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in April of 1995, where he was a bench player for two seasons, seeing most of his playing time at third base. He batted .271 in 74 games (33 starts) in 1995, with a .717 OPS that was his career best up to that point. He saw his only postseason action that year, going 0-for-8 at the plate in six games. He then hit .235 in 88 games in 1996, getting 35 starts that season. His OPS dropped to a .623 mark that season. Strange signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Expos in February of 1997. He he hit .257 with 40 runs, 16 doubles, 47 RBIs and a career high 12 homers in 118 games that year. The Pirates signed him as a free agent on December 2, 1997. In 1998 he played mostly third base and saw plenty of opportunities in a pinch-hitting role. He missed almost the entire month of July due to a sprained ankle, and he struggled when he was healthy, hitting .173 with no homers and 14 RBIs in 90 games. He finished with a .433 OPS. Strange was with the Pirates in 1999, but was placed on the disabled list to start the season due to an elbow problem. By mid-season it was determined he needed surgery, which ended his season. He played briefly in the minors in 2000 before retiring as a player. Strange is currently the Special Assistant Scout for the Pirates. He has been in the Pirates organization in some capacity since 2002. In 707 big league games, he hit .233 with 31 homers, 211 RBIs and 194 runs scored. He stole 14 bases in 29 attempts. Strange was considered to be an above average defender. He played 339 games at third base during his career, and 229 games at second base.

Claude Hendrix, pitcher for the 1911-13 Pirates. He pitched three seasons in the minors before having a strong season in 1910 pitching for a semi-pro team out of Wyoming, where he struck out over 200 batters and won 17 games. He opened his pro career in 1907 at 18 years old, playing for Wichita and Joplin of the Class-C Western Association. He was also attending college at the time, so his stats from 1907-08 are limited. The 1908 season was spent with Lincoln of the Class-A Western League, then he played for Salina of the Class-D Central Kansas League in 1909, where he had a 12-8 record in 26 appearances. That was a long way from the majors, as was semi-pro ball in Wyoming, but he was close to making his big league debut. The Pirates signed him on December 18, 1910, after receiving numerous reports (and stats) of his strong work, along with a recommendation from some baseball people familiar to owner Barney Dreyfuss, which led to them sending a scout to check him out. Hendrix was said to be on trial, but he made the 1911 Pirates out of Spring Training and never returned to minor league ball again. He made 12 starts and ten relief appearances that year, going 4-6, 2.73 in 118.2 innings. While it was the middle of the deadball era, his ERA was 66 points below league average. In 1912, he was in a starting rotation that included star pitchers Howie Camnitz and Babe Adams, but it was Hendrix who had the best season. He went 24-9, 2.59, with a team leading 288.2 innings pitched. He threw four shutouts, 25 complete games and he struck out 176 batters, second highest total in the National League. His .727 winning percentage was the best in the league, but it only ended up being the third best mark of his career. He received mild MVP support, finishing 20th in the voting.

The Pirates dropped from 93 wins in 1912 down to 78 in 1913, and despite an ERA of 2.84 (36 points below league average), Hendrix saw his record drop to 14-15 on the year. He made 25 starts and 17 relief appearances, finishing with 241 innings pitched, 17 complete games and two shutouts. It was said that he hurt a muscle in his arm during training right before the season started, then had to deal with a finger injury during the early parts of the season. Despite that solid ERA, then Pirates were down on him and the two sides went through a contract holdout over the winter. The Pirates broke off talks in late January when it was said that Hendrix wanted $7,500 for the season. With the Federal League forming prior to the 1914 season, Hendrix jumped to the Chicago team in the league just days after contract talks broke off. Reportedly, he signed for a three-year deal at $6,000 per year, which came with a $5,000 signing bonus. He had a great season in the first year of the year league, winning a league high 29 games (against ten losses) with a league best 1.69 ERA. His 189 strikeouts set a career high and placed him third in the league. He also set a career high with 362 innings pitched, the only time he topped 300 innings in a season.

Hendrix followed up that impressive 1914 season with a 16-15, 3.00 record in 285 innings in 1915. On May 15, 1915, he threw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Rebels. He had 11 shutouts and nine saves in two seasons with Chicago Chi-Feds/Whales. When the Federal League folded after two years, most of the Chicago players from the league were moved to the Chicago Cubs roster. Hendrix finished out his career with five more seasons in the Windy City. He had an 8-16 record in 1916, despite a 2.68 ERA in 218 innings. The was the peak of the deadball era, and his ERA was actually seven points above league average, but the 67-86 record of the Cubs hurt him more. He lowered his ERA to 2.60 in 215 innings in 1917, but it came with a 10-12 record, as the Cubs once again finished under the .500 mark. Things turned around for him in 1918 when the Cubs won the pennant and he had a 20-7, 2.78 record in 233 innings. He led the league with a .741 winning percentage. He completed 21 of his 27 starts, tossing three shutouts.

The Cubs dropped down to third place in 1919 with a 75-65 record, but Hendrix was saddled with a 10-14 record of his own, despite a 2.62 ERA in 206.1 innings. That ERA was 29 points above league average, as offense started to climb around baseball. In his final season in the majors, he went 9-12, 3.58 in 203.2 innings, his ninth straight season with 200+ innings. He was pulled from a start on August 31st at the last minute due to an alleged gambling fix that day, and never pitched in pro ball again, though no charges were officially filed against him because of a lack of evidence. He was released after the season and played some semi-pro ball after being forced into early retirement. He had a 144-116, 2.65 career record in 2,371.1 innings over 257 starts and 103 relief appearances. He threw 184 complete games and 27 shutouts.

Mike Simon, catcher for the 1909-1913 Pirates. He was a light-hitting minor leaguer for five seasons before being taken by the Boston Doves (Braves) in the 1908 Rule 5 draft. He was known more for his defense, which showed in his minor league averages over his early years. He batted .250 in brief time as a rookie in pro ball in 1904 at 21 years old, while playing for Columbus of the Class-A American Association. That was the highest level of the minors at the time, and a decent showing for a deadball era catcher, so it’s a bit surprising that it took him so long to make the majors afterwards. The reason was that his offense slipped in the following seasons, while also playing at a lower level. For Peoria of the Class-B Three-I League, he had a .202 average in 78 games in 1905. That was followed by a .215 average in 85 games in 1906. His stats are incomplete for 1907, which was split between Peoria and Cedar Rapids of the same league. In 1908, he batted .217 in 130 games for Cedar Rapids, which led to him being drafted. Simon never played for Boston in the majors. The Doves sold him to the Pirates on March 1, 1909 and he became the backup catcher to George Gibson. That 1909 season saw Gibson play 150 games, which didn’t leave much playing time for Simon or the other backup catcher, Paddy O’Connor. Simon played just 12 games his rookie season, going 3-for-18 at the plate during that World Series winning season.

Simon received slightly more playing time in 1910, hitting .200 in 50 at-bats over 22 games, then he got his first real chance to play in 1911 when Gibson “only” caught 98 games. Simon played 71 games in 1911 and he had a .228 batting average with 22 RBIs in 215 at-bats. In 1912, he batted .301 on the season, but a new catcher named Bill Kelly emerged and hit .318 in 48 games, leaving Simon with just 113 at-bats all year. Despite the lost playing time to a new catcher, Simon took over as the starting catcher in 1913. He hit .247 with 23 runs, nine extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 92 games behind the plate. He finished with a .579 OPS, which was well below league average. Following the 1913 season, the Federal League was formed to help players get a better salary by eliminating the reserve clause. Simon was one of many players to jump to the league. He played two seasons in the FL, and like many of the marginal players who jumped to the league, they didn’t have a Major League job when they tried to come back after the new league folded. It didn’t help that his production slipped off greatly in the new league. He was supposedly signing his contract with the Pirates in January of 1914, but on January 27th it was announced that he signed a three-year deal with Federal League officials, without a specific team being named. The next day, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss noted that Simon requested a raise to $3,000 for his 1914 salary and Dreyfuss met his terms, showing the agreed to contract that was never signed.

Simon hit .207, with 21 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs in 93 games for the St Louis Terriers in 1914. He then batted just .176 in 47 games for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in 1915, finishing the year with a .451 OPS. That was the end of his big league career. His pro career ended in the minors in 1917. In five seasons with the Pirates, he hit .244 with one homer in 239 games. He did not homer during either season in the Federal League. The lone homer was an inside-the-park home run and it came during one of his final games with Pittsburgh. Simon hit .321 in 125 games in 1916 after dropping down in competition during a return to the Three-I League, but he batted just .224 in 89 games when he moved up to the Double-A Pacific Coast League for his final season. His final big league stats show a .225 average in 379 games, with 85 runs, 39 extra-base hits and 89 RBIs. While his career WAR finished at -0.7, he had a 3.1 mark for dWAR, showing why he stayed around despite the low offense.

Abel Lizotte, first baseman for the 1896 Pirates. He was a strong hitting minor league outfielder for most of his 17-year career, batting over .300 during at least seven of those seasons (his minor league stats are incomplete). For as good as he was in the minors, spending most of his time at the top levels of the minor leagues, his Major League career lasted just ten day in September of 1896. He debuted with Lewiston of the New England League at 21 years old in 1891, and stayed there for three years. There are no stats available from those first two season, but he impressed in 1893 when he put up a .370 average in 90 games, with 95 runs, 27 doubles, 25 homers and 19 steals. Lizotte moved up to Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League in 1894 and stayed there for three years. The New England League was a Class-B league in 1892 (unclassified the other two years) and the Eastern League was a Class-A League in 1895-96. He hit .321 in 78 games in 1894, with 63 runs, 22 doubles, 14 triples, six homers and eight steals. In 1895, he batted .333 in 109 games, with 31 doubles, 29 triples, five homers and 12 steals. The Pirates purchased Lizotte for $1,000 from Wilkes-Barre on September 10, 1896 after he led the league in average. He was hitting .398 at the time of his purchase, with just a few games remaining in the 1896 season. He debuted with the Pirates on September 17th, going 3-for-29 at the plate, with three singles and three RBIs in the last seven games of the 1896 season.

Lizotte, who was 26 years old at the time, returned to the minors for another 11 seasons after his brief big league trial. When he joined the Pirates, Connie Mack, who was manager at the time, said that he wanted to get him experience so he could take over the first base job in 1897. After his last game, the local paper said that if he could hit like he did in the final game of the season, and not like the first six games, the Pirates might just have something. He played all of his Major League games at first base and he hit third in the batting order. Lizotte played a short barnstorming trip with the Pirates after the 1896 season ended, then in early December it was quoted that he would remain with the Pirates, even after they completed a big trade with the Baltimore Orioles. However, on December 15th he was  sold to Syracuse of the Eastern League, along with teammate Jud Smith. With Syracuse during the 1897 season, Lizotte batted .323 with 40 doubles and 90 runs scored in 136 games. That wasn’t good enough to get him a trip back to the majors, so he played three seasons in Syracuse, then played for nine different teams in five different leagues over the last eight years of his career. During the 1901 season, he hit .330 with 40 doubles and eight triples in 127 games for Grand Rapids/Wheeling of the Class-A Western Association. He played Class-A ball until mid-1905, but he never approached those 1901 numbers until he dropped down in competition to end his career. He lived later in life in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, where he had played five seasons and also managed during his last two years (1907-08) in pro ball. While in Pittsburgh, the local press referred to him as Lezotte.

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