This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 21st, Ronny Paulino and Kip Wells

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Brent Morel, third baseman for the 2014-15 Pirates. He was a highly ranked prospect at one point, who never got things going in the majors. Morel was a third round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2008 out of Cal Poly. He batted .318 with an .834 OPS in 60 games during his first season in pro ball, spending most of that time in Low-A with Kannapolis of the South Atlantic League, after a brief stop with Great Falls of the short-season Pioneer League. He moved up to High-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League in 2009, where he batted .281 with 82 runs, 33 doubles, 16 homers, 79 RBIs and 25 steals in 128 games. Morel played in the Arizona Fall League after the season and batted .435 in 16 games. He began 2010 in Double-A with Birmingham of the Southern League, but he was in the majors by September, while also getting ranked after the season as the 85th best prospect in baseball. He hit .326/376/.440 in 49 games at Double-A that year, then put up a .320 average and an .851 OPS in 81 games with Triple-A Charlotte of the International League. In 21 games for the 2010 White Sox, he batted .231 with three doubles, three homers and seven RBIs. Morel spent the entire 2011 season in the majors, hitting .245 with 44 runs, 18 doubles, ten homers and 41 RBIs in 126 games. Due to a low walk rate, he had a .287 OBP.

Morel split the 2012 season between the majors and minors, struggling at both levels, while also missing time with a back strain. He hit just .199 in the minors and .177 in the majors, hitting one homer in 76 combined games. He finished with a .420 OPS in 35 games for the White Sox. He was healthy in 2013, but spent most of the year in Triple-A, where he hit .266 with 30 doubles and six homers in 106 games. With the White Sox that year, he batted .200 in 12 games, with no extra-base hits and one RBIs. After putting up a .609 OPS over parts of four seasons with the Chicago, the Pirates selected him off waivers prior to the 2014 seasons. In two years with Pittsburgh, Morel batted .196/.229/.261 in 26 games, spending most of his time in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He played 23 big league games in 2014 and hit .179 with four RBIs. He played one game for the Pirates in May, then rejoined the team in late July and played 25 games over the final ten weeks of the season. With Indianapolis that year, he hit .271 in 92 games, with 52 runs, 25 extra-base hits and 54 RBIs. He then got a brief three-game stint with the Pirates in late July of 2015, after hitting .266 with 32 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs in 81 games for Indianapolis. The Pirates let him go shortly after his final game on July 24th, which ended his big league career. He finished the 2015 season in Triple-A for the Oakland A’s, where he batted .331 in 34 games. He spent the next two seasons in Japan before retiring after the 2017 season. He hit .264 with 30 doubles and 13 homers in 200 games in Japan. In his big league career, Morel hit .227 with 72 runs, 26 doubles, 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 220 games.

Ronny Paulino, catcher for the 2005-08 Pirates. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent in late December of 1997. It took him eight seasons in the minors before he made his Major League debut on September 25, 2005. Paulino spent parts of three seasons with both High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League and Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. After playing in the Dominican Summer League at 17 years old in 1998 (no stats available), he moved up to the Gulf Coast League in 1999 and had a limited role, hitting .253 in 29 games, with one homer, 13 RBIs and a .729 OPS. Paulino moved up to Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League in 2000, where he batted .289 in 88 games, with 23 extra-base hits and 39 RBIs, while putting up a .770 OPS. He was promoted to Lynchburg in 2001 and spent two full seasons there, despite a .290 average and a .745 OPS in 103 games during his first year. Paulino hit .262 with 63 runs, 26 doubles, 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 119 games in 2002. He split 2003 between Lynchburg and Altoona and struggled in both spots, batting a combined .229 with seven homers in 69 games, finishing with a .654 OPS. He spent all of 2004 in Altoona and had a strong season, hitting .285 with 54 runs, 23 doubles, 15 homers and 60 RBIs in 99 games. He was back in Altoona to start 2005, but made it to the majors by the end of the season. Paulino hit .292 with six homers in 43 games for Altoona, then batted .315 with 13 homers in 77 games for Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He joined the Pirates near the end of the season and went 2-for-4 in two games. He finished that minor league season with a .306/.364/.499 slash line in 120 games.

In 2006, Paulino took over regular catching duties for the Pirates and batted .310 with 19 doubles, six homers, 55 RBIs and a .754 OPS in 129 games. He committed a league leading 11 errors behind the plate, but also threw out more runners than any other National League catcher. In the off-season he played winter ball in the Dominican for the first of 13 seasons. In 2007, he played a career high 133 games for the Pirates, hitting .263, with 25 doubles, 11 homers and a .703 OPS, while picking up 55 RBIs for the second consecutive season. Paulino did not play well early in the 2008 season and by June he was back in the minors. He was recalled in September, but his days with the Pirates were numbered after hitting .212 with two homers and a .582 OPS in 40 games that season. On December 10, 2008 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for minor league catcher Jason Jaramillo. Before ever playing a game for the Phillies, he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants, then to the Florida Marlins, where he spent two seasons. Paulino hit .272 with eight homers and a career best .762 OPS in 80 games in 2009, then batted .259 with four homers in 91 games in 2010. He became a free agent on December 2, 2010 and signed with the New York Mets seven days later. After batting .268/.312/.351 in 78 games for the Mets in 2011, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 2012, where he played his final 20 big league games. He hit .254 in those final 20 games, though it came with just three doubles and one walk, leading to a .567 OPS. Paulino was still active in winter ball through the 2019-20 off-season, but he hasn’t played in the minors since spending two seasons (2015-16) in Mexico. For a very brief time in 2013, he was a member of the Detroit Tigers system. Paulino hit .272 with 181 runs, 93 doubles, 33 homers and 216 RBIs in 573 big league games. With the Pirates in 304 games, he batted .278 with 102 runs, 49 doubles, 19 homers and 128 RBIs. He had one triple in his career and it came three innings into his first game with the Florida Marlins.

Jack Taschner, pitcher for the Pirates in 2010. He pitched a combined 202 games between the 2005-08 San Francisco Giants and 2009 Philadelphia Phillies before joining the Pirates. In a strange coincidence, the Phillies acquired him from the Giants in exchange for the aforementioned Ronny Paulino. Taschner was originally a 37th round draft pick out of high school by the California Angels in 1996.  He ended up attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where he worked his way to a second round pick of the Giants in 1999. He debuted in short-season ball with Salem-Keizer of the Northwest League and posted a 2.51 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. He moved up to High-A San Jose of the California League in 2000, but his season was limited to just ten late season games because of a labrum fray that occurred during the end of his 1999 season. He had a 4.10 ERA in 26.1 innings. He remained in San Jose in 2001, putting up a 4.11 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 65.2 innings over 14 starts, while spending more time on the disabled list. Taschner had Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of the 2002 season. He returned in 2003 to a swing role in Double-A Norwich of the Eastern League, making 12 starts and 22 relief appearances. He had an 0-6, 5.71 record in 75.2 innings, while posting a 45:46 BB/SO ratio. He turned things around the next year in Norwich, going 3-1, 2.48 in 58 innings, before getting hit hard in Triple-A, where he had a 9.28 ERA in 53.2 innings with Fresno of the Pacific Coast League.

Taschner moved to full-time relief for the first time in 2005 and it changed his career. He had a 1.64 ERA in 44 appearances with Fresno, with ten saves and 62 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. He got called up to the majors in June and posted a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 innings over 24 appearances. Despite the success at both levels, he spent part of July and almost all of August back in the minors. In 2006, Taschner split the season once again between Fresno and the majors, though he had major issues during his time with the Giants. He made 24 appearances again, except this time he posted an 8.38 ERA in 19.1 innings. At Fresno that year, he went 6-7, 3.65 with 14 saves and 68 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. Despite the struggles in 2006, Taschner spent the entire 2007 season in the majors. He went 3-1, 5.40 with 51 strikeouts in 50 innings over 63 outings. He had a similar role in 2008 as a lefty specialist, with slightly better results in his second full season, putting up a 4.88 ERA in 48 innings over 67 games. Right-handed batters hit .308 against him that season. With the Phillies in 2009, Taschner had a 4.91 ERA in 29.1 innings over 24 appearances, while spending half of the year in Triple-A with Lehigh Valley of the International League. He was signed by Pittsburgh as a minor league free agent on December 23, 2009. He made the team out of Spring Training, and in 17 appearances he went 1-0, 6.05, pitching a total of 19.1 innings. He was designated for assignment in early June and refused to report to Triple-A, making him a free agent. Taschner signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, making ten minor league appearances and three big league appearances before being released. He retired just one of the six batters he faced while with Los Angeles. His playing career ended following the 2010 season. In six big league seasons, he went 10-5, 5.14 in 189 innings over 222 appearances.

Kip Wells, pitcher for the 2002-06 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1998 and made it to the majors in just one year. Wells was originally drafted in the 58th round out of High School in 1995 by the Milwaukee Brewers. He decided to attend Baylor University, where he moved up to the 16th overall pick after three years. He didn’t even sign until December, so he didn’t debut in pro ball until the 1999 season. Wells started at High-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League, where he put up a 3.57 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 85.2 innings over 14 starts. He moved up to Double-A Birmingham of the Southern League and posted a 2.94 ERA in 11 starts, though his strikeouts dropped to 44 in 70.1 innings. That led to an August promotion to the majors, skipping right over Triple-A. He made seven starts for the 1999 White Sox, going 4-1, 4.04 in 35.2 innings, with 29 strikeouts. He began 2000 in the majors, but after a 6.03 ERA in 15 starts, he was sent to Triple-A for the first time. He did not do well with Charlotte of the International League, posting a 5.37 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 62 innings, but he still returned to Chicago in September and had a 6.00 ERA in five starts. Wells began the 2001 season as a starter in Charlotte, then moved to the White Sox bullpen in late April. He eventually got back to the rotation and finished the year with a 10-11, 4.79 record in 133.1 innings over 20 starts and 20 relief appearances.

In three seasons with the White Sox, Wells went 20-21, 5.14 in 267.2 innings over 47 starts and 20 relief appearances. He joined the Pirates on December 13, 2001, along with Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe, in exchange for Todd Ritchie. Wells moved right into the Pirates rotation and had a strong first season, posting a 12-14, 3.58 record in 198.1 innings, recording 134 strikeouts. He was even better his second season with the club, going 10-9, 3.28 in 197.1 innings, with a career high 147 strikeouts. On April 25th, he hit a 457-foot home run that was for a time the longest homer hit at PNC Park. His 2004 season didn’t go so well, as he missed time with numbness in his pitching hand and he was able to make just 24 starts, winning only five times, while posting a 4.55 ERA in 138.1 innings. Thing got even worse in 2005 for him, as he led the National League in losses (18) and walks (99), while putting up a 5.09 ERA in 182 innings. He missed the first two months of the 2006 season due to minor surgery in March, then made seven starts before the Pirates dealt him at the trading deadline to the Texas Rangers for minor league pitcher Jesse Chavez. After leaving the Pirates, Wells went 13-29, pitching for seven different teams over five seasons. At the time of the trade, he had a 1-5, 6.67 record in 36.1 innings.

Wells made just two starts for the Rangers after the trade, missing the rest of the season with a left foot injury. He signed with the St Louis Cardinals as a free agent for 2007 and led the NL in losses (17) for a second time, while posting a 5.70 ERA in 162.2 innings over 26 starts and eight relief appearances. He split the 2008 season between the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals, posting a 6.21 ERA, while mainly pitching in relief. Surprisingly, he had better results with the Rockies, with a 5.27 ERA, compared to an 8.31 mark with the Royals. Wells split the 2009 season between the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, putting up a 5.33 ERA in 72.2 innings over seven starts and 26 relief appearances. Most of that time was spent in Washington, where he had a 6.49 ERA in 23 appearances. All of his starts came with the Reds, where his ERA was 4.66 in 46.1 innings. He pitched in independent ball in 2010 and played in Mexico in 2011, before returning to the majors for a final time in 2012 with the San Diego Padres. Wells had a 4.58 ERA in seven starts for the Padres, while also spending time in Triple-A. His pro career wrapped up with six starts and a 10.36 ERA in Triple-A for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013. He posted a 69-103, 4.71 record in 1,338.1 innings over 12 seasons in the majors, making 219 starts and 77 relief appearances. With the Pirates, he went 36-53, 4.20 in 128 games (all starts) and 752.1 innings. He threw his only three career complete games and only two shutouts with the Pirates.

Stan Rojek, shortstop for the 1948-51 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1939. It took him four years to make the majors and when he did, he got into one late September 1942 game as a pinch-runner, before missing the next three seasons while serving in the military during WWII. Rojek debuted in 1939 in Class-D ball, hitting .320 with 37 extra-base hits in 103 games for Olean of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League (PONY League). He moved up a level to Dayton of the Middle Atlantic League in 1940, where he batted .287 in 123 games, with 17 doubles and six triples. He was with Class-B Durham of the Piedmont League in 1941, where he hit .309 in 140 games, with 12 doubles and eight triples. He homered four times in his first season, then failed to collect one in the next two years over 972 at-bats. Rojek continued his progress in 1942, moving up to Montreal of the International League, one step below the majors. That season he hit .283 with 90 runs scored, 21 doubles, five triples, three homers, 11 steals and 46 walks in 144 games, which led to his brief big league trial before the war. When Rojek returned from WWII, he played two seasons in Brooklyn as a backup infielder. He hit .277 in 45 games in 1946, though he batted just 52 times all year. He started eight games all season, seeing time at shortstop (six starts), third base (two starts) and second base. His playing time increased (sort of) during the 1947 season, as he split 20 starts between the same three positions, though he played just 32 games total. He batted .263 in 88 plate appearances.

Rojek was sold to the Pirates along with Ed Stevens on November 14, 1947. His first season in Pittsburgh was the best of his career. He started as shortstop and led the league in games played, at-bats and plate appearances (also caught stealing). He set career highs in walks (61), RBIs (51), runs scored (85), doubles (27) and stolen bases (24). He hit four homers that year, which turned out to be the only four of his big league career. On defense, Rojek led all National League shortstops with 475 assists. That season was good enough to earn him a tenth place finish in the MVP race. In 1949, he hit .244 with 72 runs scored, 19 doubles, 31 RBIs and 50 walks in 144 games (all starts at shortstop), while finishing third among all NL shortstops in fielding percentage. He saw his playing time dip down to 76 games in 1950, starting only five of the last 60 games of the season. He had a .631 OPS in 253 plate appearances that year, which was actually 37 points higher than the previous season. Early in 1951, the Pirates dealt him to the St Louis Cardinals for Rocky Nelson and Erv Dusak. He was 3-for-16 at the plate in eight games before the trade.

Rojek played 60 more big league games after leaving Pittsburgh, getting into 51 games with the 1951 Cardinals after the deal, then another nine games with the 1952 St Louis Browns. He hit .274 with 21 runs, ten extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in his time with the Cardinals. He had just nine early season plate appearances with the Browns, going 1-for-7 with two walks. He finished his big league career with a .266 average, 122 RBIs, 225 runs, and a 152:100 BB/SO ratio in 522 games. Rojek finished the 1952 season playing for the Toledo/Charleston franchise in the Triple-A American Association, where he hit .246 in 125 games, with a .583 OPS. He then split the 1953 season playing for two affiliates of the Brooklyn Dodgers, spending most of that time back in Montreal, batting .273 in 66 games there. His final two seasons (1954-55) of pro ball were spent with St Paul of the American Association, which was also an affiliate of the Dodgers. He ended up hitting .227 each year, playing a total of 123 games. While in Pittsburgh, he hit .266 in 384 games, with 185 runs, 70 extra-base hits, 99 RBIs and 30 steals, though he was caught 28 times.

Fred Hartman, third baseman for the 1894 Pirates. He was a local boy, who made his Major League debut in late July of 1894 after playing five seasons in the minors, spending time with teams from Pennsylvania towns such as Altoona, Johnstown, Wilkes-Barre and Erie. He didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 25 years old in 1890, when he spent the season with two different teams (Springfield and McKeesport) in the Tri-State League. In 1891, he hit .316 in 69 games for Erie of the New York-Penn League, finishing with 63 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 17 steals in his short time. He played for a team in 1892 that split their season between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh while playing in the Pennsylvania State League (stats aren’t available for this year). He remained in that league in 1893 and batted .309 in 96 games for Johnstown. He scored 106 runs that season, while putting up 12 doubles, 13 triples and 24 steals. Hartman played for two other teams in the Pennsylvania State League (Altoona and Lancaster) in 1894 before joining the Pirates. His stats are incomplete, but he’s credited with 59 runs scored and 37 extra-base hits in 55 games. He actually jumped from Lancaster to the Pirates, saying at the time that he only signed a contract to play with Altoona, and wasn’t bound to Lancaster after Altoona transferred to the city, because he didn’t sign a contract with them. He played his final game with the club on July 21st, then showed up in the Pirates lineup five days later. It would have been illegal for the Pirates to use a “jumper” if Hartman didn’t have a valid case with his contract transfer. He would have been blacklisted by baseball, which would have meant that the Pirates would have forfeited any games he played in.

Hartman was the Pirates starting third baseman for most of the second half of the 1894 season, playing 49 of the final 54 games. He hit .319 with 13 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs, 12 steals and 41 runs scored. He was signed to be the substitute infielder after they released Jim Ritz, who played just one Major League game, but Hartman took over for starting third baseman Denny Lyons and remained there for the rest of the season. Despite the strong stats, the Pirates announced in mid-October that he wouldn’t be signed for the 1895 season. The 1894 season was a peak year for offense in baseball, so his .837 OPS that year was just slightly above league average. He returned to the minors for the next two seasons before reappearing in the majors with the 1897 St Louis Browns (current day Cardinals). In 1895, he hit .357 with 61 extra-base hits in 113 games playing in the Western League, a top minor league at the time, with most of that time coming for the Toledo/Terre Haute franchise.  He remained in the Western League in 1896 with Milwaukee (no stats available) before returning to the majors for the entire 1897 season. Hartman batted .304 with 67 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits, 67 RBIs and 18 steals in 125 games for the 1897 Browns. His .737 OPS was just three points below league average. He was traded to the New York Giants over the off-season and he hit .272 with 57 runs, 29 extra-base hits and 88 RBIs in 123 games during the 1898 season. He struggled the next year, batting .237 in 51 games, which had him back in the minors for 1900  with the Chicago White Sox of the American League, where he remained in 1901, in the first year of the American League as a Major League.

Hartman actually did better when the league became a Major League. In 1900, he hit .276 in 116 games, with 71 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 15 steals. In 1901, he batted .309 with 23 doubles, 13 triples, three homers, 89 RBIs, 31 steals and 77 runs scored in 120 games.  He jumped to the St Louis Cardinals for his final big league season in 1902, hitting just .216 in 114 games, with a .505 OPS than was 281 points lower than the previous year. He was a .278 big league hitter in 582 games, with 77 doubles, 47 triples, ten homers, 88 steals, 333 RBIs and 297 runs scored. Hartman returned to the minors in 1903, where he finished his pro career in 1907 at 42 years old, playing for the McKeesport (Pa.) Tubers, his hometown team. The 1903-05 seasons were spent one step from the majors with Buffalo and Montreal of the Class-A Eastern League, but he dropped down to Class-B/Class-D competition for his final two seasons, playing for four different teams during that time.