This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: July 3rd, Moises Alou, Edinson Volquez and Bunny Brief

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a very recent one.

Cole Tucker, infielder for the 2019-22 Pirates. He was a first round pick of the Pirates, selected 24th overall out of high school in Arizona at 17 years old. He went to the Gulf Coast League during his first season and hit .267 in 48 games, with 39 runs, 13 stolen bases and a .724 OPS. His season ended early due to a thumb injury, which was a sign of things to come early in his career. In 2015, Tucker played for West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .293 in 73 games, with 46 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 25 steals and a .699 OPS. His season ended early due to a shoulder surgery that delayed the start of his 2016 season. Tucker played 15 games for West Virginia in 2016, then spent the rest of the year with Bradenton of the High-A Florida State League. Between the two stops he hit .242 in 80 games, with 45 runs, 21 extra-base hits and a .639 OPS.  His 2017 season, which was split between Bradenton and Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League, was interrupted twice by hand injuries, which limited him to 110 games. He combined to hit .275 with 71 runs, 19 doubles, 11 triples, six homers, 50 RBIs, 47 steals, 55 walks and a .766 OPS. Tucker had his first healthy season in 2018, which he spent at Altoona. He hit .259 in 133 games, with 77 runs, 21 doubles, seven triples, five homers, 35 steals, 55 walks and a .689 OPS. After the season, he attended the Arizona Fall League, where he had an .899 OPS in 20 games.

Tucker split the 2019 season between Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, and the Pirates. He hit .261/.346/.413 in 77 games in the minors, and he batted .211/.266/.361 in 56 games in the majors. He stole 11 bases in the minors, but he didn’t even attempt a steal with the Pirates. In the shortened 2020 season, Tucker played 37 games for the Pirates, hitting .220 with 17 runs, three doubles, a homer, eight RBIs and a .527 OPS. The 2021 season was split between Indianapolis and the Pirates. He had a .223 average and a .723 OPS in 61 games with Indianapolis, to go along with a .222/.298/.342 slash line in 43 games with the Pirates. Tucker made the Opening Day roster in 2022, but he was sent down after a .175 average and a .397 OPS in 18 games. He had zero walks and 25 strikeouts. He was sent back to Indianapolis, rejoined the Pirates briefly, then back to the minors, before being designated for assignment on May 30th. He was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks a week later, and has been at Triple-A Reno of the Pacific Coast League since. In his four seasons with the Pirates, he hit .211 in 154 games, with 51 runs, 18 doubles, five homers and 35 RBIs.

Edinson Volquez, pitcher for the 2014 Pirates. He was signed at 18 years old out of the Dominican Republic by the Texas Rangers in October of 2001 and got his pro start in the 2002 Dominican Summer League. He debuted in the U.S. in 2003, pitching in the Arizona League, where he had a 4.00 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 27 innings. Volquez split the 2004 season between Low-A Clinton of the Midwest League and High-A Stockton of the California League, combining to go 8-5, 3.82 in 127.1 innings, with 108 strikeouts. The Rangers had him in the majors by late August of 2005 after he put up a 4.10 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 127.1 innings over three levels of the minors, mainly splitting his time between Bakersfield of the California League and Frisco of the Double-A Texas League, with similar results/time at each level. In his first big league trial, he 14.21 ERA in 12.1 innings over three starts and three relief appearances.

Volquez made 21 starts in Triple-A in 2006, posting a 3.21 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 120.2 innings while playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League with Oklahoma. He went 1-6, 7.29 in 33.1 innings eight starts with the Rangers that year, with more walks (17) than strikeouts (15). In 2007, he made 26 minor league starts split between Bakersfield, Frisco and Oklahoma, compiling a 3.67 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. In his big league time that season, he had a 4.50 ERA in 34 innings over six starts. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the season in a two-for-one deal for Josh Hamilton. The trade worked out great for Volquez, who went 17-6, 3.21 in 196 innings in 2008, while making his only All-Star appearance. He had a career high 206 strikeouts, which ranked second in the National League. It was the only time that he finished top ten in strikeouts.

The 2008 season looked like a breakout performance for Volquez, but the next three years were limited to poor performances over 41 starts total, and he missed time with Tommy John surgery and a 50-game PED suspension. He went 4-2, 4.39 in 49.2 innings over nine starts in 2009, followed by a 4-3, 4.31 record and 67 strikeouts in 62.2 innings in 2010. In 2011, he went 5-7, 5.71 in 108.2 innings over 20 starts. Volquez was part of a four-for-one deal, going to the San Diego Padres before the 2012 season. He had an 11-11, 4.14 record in 182.2 innings during his first season in San Diego. He picked up 174 strikeouts that year, but he also led the league with 105 walks. He was released in late August of 2013 after going 9-10, 6.01 in 27 starts and 142.1 innings. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final five weeks of the season and had a 4.18 ERA in 28 innings. That year he led the league in earned runs allowed.

Volquez signed a one-year contract with the Pirates for the 2014 season. That year he went 13-7, 3.04, with 140 strikeouts in 192.2 innings over 31 starts and one relief appearance. He started the Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants and allowed five runs over five innings. He signed with the Kansas City Royals for 2015 and went 13-9, 3.55 in 200.1 innings, finishing with 155 strikeouts. He made five starts during the postseason, including two World Series starts (3.00 ERA in 12 innings), helping the Royals to their second World Series title. His numbers took a hit in 2016, with a 10-11, 5.37 record in 189.1 innings, leading the American League in earned runs allowed. He signed a two-year free agent deal with the Miami Marlins for 2017-18, but he was limited to a 4-8, 4.19 record in 92.1 innings over 17 starts during that time. Volquez missed the entire 2018 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. He then pitched a total of 24 innings in 2019 between the majors and minors while with the Rangers. He signed a minor league deal with the Rangers for the 2020 season and ended up pitching seven games in relief in the majors during that shortened season, allowing four runs in 5.2 innings. He originally announced that 2019 would be his last year, but he ended up retiring after 2020. Volquez played 15 seasons in the majors, putting together a 95-89, 4.45 record in 273 starts and 21 relief appearances, pitching a total of 1,546.1 innings. He finished with 1,323 strikeouts. He threw just four complete games during his career, two were shutouts.

Moises Alou, outfielder for the 1990 Pirates. He was a first round pick, taken second overall in the January 1986 amateur draft out of Canada College in California. He debuted with Watertown of the short-season New York-Penn League at 19 years old in 1986, hitting .239 with 23 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases and a .705 OPS in 69 games. Injuries limited him to 43 games in 1987 and he hit just .208 with 12 extra-base hits, while spending most of the season back in Watertown. In 1988, Alou played for Augusta of the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he batted .313 with 58 runs, 35 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 24 steals, 51 walks and an .863 OPS in 105 games. By the end of the 1989 season, he was considered a top prospect in the minors. That year he hit .298 in 140 games, with 86 runs, 34 doubles, 17 homers, 72 RBIs, 20 steals and an .838 OPS, while splitting the year between Advanced-A Salem of the Carolina League and Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League. He began 1990 back in Harrisburg, but he made it to Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association after a month. Alou hit .273 with 34 runs, five homers, 31 RBIs and a .733 OPS in 75 games at Buffalo before getting the call to the majors in late July. He played two games for the Pirates, going 1-for-5 while playing left field. The Pirates sent him to the Montreal Expos on August 16, 1990 as the player to be named later in a trade made eight days earlier that brought Zane Smith back to Pittsburgh. The move helped the team short-term, but Alou was still a productive Major Leaguer long after Smith was gone.

After some brief Triple-A time with Indianapolis of the American Association, Alou hit .200/.200/.333 in 14 games for the Expos in 1990. He then missed the entire 1991 season due to a shoulder injury. He batted .282 with 53 runs, 28 doubles, nine homers, 56 RBIs and 16 steals in 115 games in 1991, which led to a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 1993, Alou hit .286 with 70 runs, 29 doubles, 18 homers, 85 RBIs, 17 steals and an .824 OPS in 136 games. His 1994 season was one of the best of his career and it came during a strike-shortened campaign. He batted .339 in 107 games, with 81 runs, 31 doubles, 22 homers, 78 RBIs and a .989 OPS. The led to his first All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and a third place finish in the MVP voting. In 1995, he missed a bit of time due to injury again, but he still played 93 games, hitting .273 with 48 runs, 22 doubles 14 homers, 58 RBIs and an .801 OPS. The 1996 season saw Alou hit .281 with 87 runs, 28 doubles, 21 homers, 96 RBIs and a .797 OPS. He received mild MVP support, finishing 24th in the voting. He became a free agent and signed with the Florida Marlins after the season. He put up 12.3 WAR in his six seasons in Montreal.

Alou hit .292 in 150 games, with 88 runs, 29 doubles, 23 homers, 115 RBIs, 70 walks and an .866 OPS in 1997, helping the Marlins to their first World Series title. He finished tenth in the MVP voting and he made his second All-Star appearance. He didn’t do well in the first two rounds of the playoffs, combining to go 4-for-29, but he managed to drive in five runs in the second round while collecting just one hit (a double). Alou had a great World Series, hitting .321 with three homers and nine RBIs. He was even better the next year when he repeated his 1994 trifecta of an All-Star, Silver Slugger and third place MVP finish. Alou was traded to the Houston Astros on November 11, 1997, as the Marlins immediately broke up their World Series champs. He batted .312 with 104 runs scored, 34 doubles, 38 homers, a .981 OPS, and career highs of 124 RBIs and 87 walks. It was his best season according to WAR, compiling 6.2 of his career 39.9 WAR in that one year. At what seemed to be the peak of his game, Alou was injured in Spring Training of 1999 and missed the entire season.

Alou returned to action in 2000 with the Astros, hitting .355 with 82 runs, 28 doubles, 30 homers and 114 RBIs in 126 games. He finished second in batting average in the league, and his 1.039 OPS was his career best. Despite the strong stats, he ended up finishing 20th in the MVP voting. In 2001, Alou hit .331 in 136 games, with 79 runs, 31 doubles, 27 homers, 107 RBIs and a .949 OPS. He was an All-Star for the fourth time and he finished 14th in the MVP voting. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .275 with 50 runs, 23 doubles, 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 132 games that first year. His OPS dropped 192 points from the previous season. In 2003, he batted .280 with 83 runs, 35 doubles, 22 homers, 91 RBIs and 63 walks, helping the Cubs to the playoffs, where he batted .500 in their first round win, then hit .310 with two homers in the NLCS loss to the Marlins. In 2004, Alou hit .293 with 106 RBIs and a .919 OPS, setting career highs with 106 runs, 36 doubles and 39 homers. He played 155 games that year, the last time that he was healthy through a full season. He made his fifth All-Star appearance and he finished 14th in the MVP voting, the final time he received MVP support.

Alou signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent for 2005 and hit .321 with 67 runs, 21 doubles, 19 homers, 62 RBIs and a .918 OPS in 123 games. He made his final All-Star appearance that season. He played just 98 games in 2006, but he hit .301 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs, compiling a .923 OPS. He signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets  on November 21, 2006, but he was limited to 102 games during the 2007-08 seasons. Alou batted .342 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs during his time in New York. He had a .341 average and a .916 OPS in 87 games in 2007, but he played just 15 games in his final year, while visiting the disabled list three times. He finished his 17-year career with a .303 average, 1, 109 runs scored, 421 doubles, 332 homers and 1,287 RBIs in 1,942 games. He was a six-time All-Star and he won two Silver Slugger awards. Twice in his career he finished third in National League MVP voting, and he received mild MVP support in five other seasons. He comes from a huge baseball family. His dad and two uncles were long-time MLB outfielders, who once played together in the majors in the same outfield. His brother Luis Rojas was the manager of the New York Mets for two seasons. His cousins Mel Rojas and Jose Sosa each played in the majors. His uncle Matty played the Pirates, making them one of 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates. His dad Felipe was his manager during the 1992-96 seasons in Montreal.

Luke Hamlin, pitcher for the 1942 Pirates. He didn’t make the majors until the age of 28, but Hamlin would go on to have a decent nine-year career with 76 wins and a 20-win season to his credit. He began in 1928 at 22 years old, pitching for Class-D Hanover of the Blue Ridge League, where he went 12-6, 2.03 in 173 innings. The next year he moved up to Class-C Fort Smith of the Western Association, posting a 20-9, 2.50 record in 248 innings. Hamlin advanced to Class-B Evansville of the Three-I League in 1930, where he had an 18-7, 3.21 record in 213 innings. He pitched briefly for Evansville in 1931, but spent most of the season with Beaumont of the Texas League (A-Ball), where he went 14-13, 3.47 in 228 innings. He remained in Beaumont in 1932, going 20-10, 2.77 in 221 innings. The next year he was one step from the majors with Toronto of the Double-A International League (Triple-A came along in 1946), where he was 21-13, 3.48 in 261 innings. Hamlin’s first chance in the majors came with the 1933 Detroit Tigers, where he made three late season starts and had a 4.86 ERA in 16.2 innings. He was with the team for all of 1934, going 2-3, 5.38 in five starts and 15 relief appearances, throwing a total of 75.1 innings. After spending the next two years in the minors with Milwaukee of the Double-A American Association, he returned with the 1937 Brooklyn Dodgers and would become a regular in their rotation for five seasons. Hamlin went 8-14, 4.04 in 178 innings for Milwaukee in 1935, and 19-14, 3.82 in 273 innings in 1936.

Hamlin had an 11-13, 3.59 record during his first season back in the majors with the 1937 Dodgers. He made 25 starts and 14 relief appearances that year, throwing a total of 185.2 innings. He went 12-15, 3.68 in 237.1 innings over 30 starts and 14 relief appearances in 1938, with his record suffering due to the team being 11 games under .500 for the season. The Dodgers were 15 games over .500 the following season, their first year under Hall of Famer Leo Durocher. During that 1939 season, Hamlin went 20-13, 3.64 in 269.2 innings, leading the National League in games started (38), while ranking fourth in wins. His 88 strikeouts that year don’t sound impressive, but he actually finished tenth in the league in strikeouts. He had a career best ERA in 1940 when he went 9-8, 3.06 in 182.1 innings, with 91 strikeouts, which once again ranked him tenth in the league. In 1941, Hamlin went 8-8, 4.24 in 136 innings, making 20 starts and ten relief appearances. The Pirates acquired him on December 12, 1941 as part of a package in return for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan.

For Pittsburgh, Hamlin had a 4-4, 3.94 record in 112 innings, making 14 starts and nine relief appearances. He spent the 1943 season pitching for Toronto of the International League, posting a 21-8, 2.14 record in 224 innings, yet didn’t get a call to the majors. The Philadelphia A’s traded for him in September of 1943 and Hamlin finished his big league career with the A’s in 1944, going 6-12, 3.74 in 190 innings that year. He returned to Toronto for the next four seasons, then finished his career two years later (1950) at 45 years old, pitching those last two seasons in the low levels of the minors, serving one year as a player-manager. It’s a bit surprising that he didn’t get another big league shot because talent in baseball was at a premium during the war in 1945 and part of 1946 as players slowly started to return to baseball from service. Hamlin went 16-11, 3.22 in 215 innings with Toronto in 1945, then had a 15-6, 2.22 record in 193 innings in 1946. He had a long successful minor league career, winning 213 games in 15 seasons, with four 20-win seasons, giving him a total of 286 wins in the pros, while throwing a total of 4,390 innings. While it’s an obvious apples to oranges comparison, that innings total in the majors would be the 31st highest total in baseball history. Hamlin went 73-76, 3.77 in 1,405 Major League innings. He made 181 starts and 80 relief appearances, while finishing with 70 complete games, 12 shutouts and nine saves.

Chet Nichols, pitcher for the 1926-27 Pirates. He got a late start to his pro career, beginning in 1925 with New Haven of the Eastern League at 27 years old. Nichols pitched 304 innings that first season, posting a 15-10, 2.93 record. The next year, he was 13-6, 2.37 in 163 innings through July when the Pirates gave him a shot at the majors. In late June, Nichols completed his eighth straight victory before an ankle injury during practice sidelined him. It was said that the Pirates were one of numerous teams after him, but they were unable to get a look at him during a scouting trip due to the injury.  He was purchased on June 25th for a price reported to be between $12,000 and $20,000 depending on the source, with the Pirates also giving up Bud Culloton. Nichols reported to the Pirates the next day and had an x-ray on his ankle, which showed two broken bones. He ended up making his debut with Pittsburgh on July 30th. He made three relief appearances over a six-day span. While the first one went well (1.2 scoreless innings), the other two did not. He allowed 11 runs in six innings during those two games. The Pirates kept him around until he was sent back to New Haven on option on August 25th. Nichols was back with the team during Spring Training in 1927, but didn’t make his season debut with Pittsburgh until the middle of May.  For the Pirates, he went 0-3, 5.86 in eight relief appearances, pitching a total of 27.2 innings. His next-to-last appearance with the team was an in-season exhibition game and he did not take part in the World Series because the Pirates returned him to New Haven on August 8th. He was being used as a batting practice pitcher almost exclusively during his final six weeks with the team, appearing in just one game that counted. He pitched 12 games during the 1927 season for New Haven, going 6-4, 2.60 in 83 innings.

Nichols would be taken by the New York Giants in the 1927 Rule 5 draft. He gave up 13 runs in 2.2 innings during his time with the 1928 Giants, with one outing each in May, July and August. After leaving Pittsburgh, he pitched 33 more games in the majors over four seasons, finishing his big league career with a 1-8, 7.19 record in 122.2 innings. He spent part of 1928 with Montreal of the Double-A International League. In 1929, Nichols played for Montreal all season, going 13-12, 3.70 in 180 innings. He was with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1930-32 seasons, but he pitched just 30 games total. He went 1-2, 6.79 in 59.2 innings over 16 games in 1930. The 1931 season was split between the Phillies and St Paul of the American Association, where he went 5-1, 4.87 in 61 innings. His big league time was limited to three relief appearances in July. The 1932 season was also his final year in pro ball. He had a 6.98 ERA in 11 early season games, last pitching on May 29th. He was hit in the leg by a ball during batting practice and couldn’t pitch, so the Phillies optioned him to Columbus of the American Association, but there’s no record of him pitching over the rest of that season. He was put on the MLB ineligible list for a time, but was reinstated in January of 1933 and released by the Phillies. He then went to play semi-pro ball near his hometown in Rhode Island. His son Chet Nichols Jr, pitched nine seasons in the majors between 1951 and 1964.

Bunny Brief, first baseman for the 1917 Pirates. He was one of the best home run hitters in the minor leagues ever. Brief hit 342 homers over a 19-year career that began during the deadball era. He wasn’t all power, he was also a pretty good hitter, batting .331 in the minors, which included ten straight .300 seasons to finish his career. However, his time in the majors matched his last name and he showed neither the average nor power he was famous for in the minors. He debuted in pro ball at 17 years old, spending his first three seasons (1910-12) with Traverse City of the Class-D Michigan State League, playing with his hometown team. Brief batted .283 in 1910, with 31 extra-base hits in 95 games. The next year he hit .351 in 118 games, with 26 doubles, eight triples and ten homers. He hit .353 during his third season in Traverse City in 1912, collecting 31 doubles, 11 triples and 13 homers in 119 games. Brief spent September/October of 1912 and most of 1913 seasons with the St Louis Browns, playing a total of 100 games during his first taste of the majors. He batted .310 with nine runs, three doubles and five RBIs over 15 games in 1912, then slumped down to a .217 average in 85 games in 1913, with 24 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs. He finished the 1913 season with Kansas City of the Double-A American Association, hitting .242 with five extra-base hits in 37 games.

Brief hit .318 for Kansas City in 1914, collecting 117 runs, 205 hits, 51 doubles, 16 triples, 12 homers, 38 steals and 78 walks in 169 games. He next appeared in the majors with the 1915 Chicago White Sox, batting .214 with two homers and a .623 OPS in 48 games. Brief finished off that season with Salt Lake City of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .363 in 82 games. After hitting .314 with 38 doubles and 33 homers for Salt Lake City  in 1916 (he played 195 games that year), Brief got his last chance at the majors with the 1917 Pirates. He would play 36 games before returning to the minor leagues, hitting .217 with 15 runs, two homers, 11 RBIs and a .649 OPS. The first home run he hit with Pittsburgh came off Grover Alexander, the Hall of Fame pitcher with 373 career wins. The next homer came the next day off of Erskine Mayer, who would go on to pitch for the Pirates the next season. Brief returned to the minors in June of 1917, and finished that season (and the next 11 years) down of the farm without making it back to the majors. The Pirates worked out a deal with Salt Lake City to take him on a 30-day trial and if they wanted to keep him, they would need to pay for his services. They decided after 30 days to return him, although Brief balked at returning to the Pacific Coast League, so the Pirates held on to him until he was sold to Louisville of the American Association instead. His unwillingness to return to his old team actually added another 15 games to his big league resume.

Brief spent the rest of the 1917 season with Louisville, then returned to Kansas City in 1918, where he played the next seven seasons. Like most sluggers, his hitting stats took off once the deadball era ended. In 1919, he hit .325 with 54 extra-base hits. In 1920, he batted .319 with 41 doubles, nine triples and 23 homers. Things really got going in 1921, as he batted .361 with 51 doubles, 11 triples and 42 homers in 164 games. In 122, Brief hit .339 with 40 doubles and 40 homers in 139 games. His 1923 season saw him hit .359 in 166 games, with 47 doubles, 15 triples and 29 homers. In his final season with Kansas City in 1924, he hit .338 with 58 doubles, 12 triples and 17 homers. Brief played with Milwaukee of the American Association for his final four seasons. In 1925, he hit .358 in 167 games, with 45 doubles, 13 triples and 37 homers. In 1926, he had a .352 average and 74 extra-base hits. He slowed down a bit during his final two season, but was still a valuable hitter, batting .308 with 45 extra-base hits in 1927, and .309 with 33 extra-base hits in 90 games in 1928. In his four big league seasons, he hit .223 in 184 games, with 61 runs, 25 doubles, five homers and 59 RBIs. He is known in baseball history by the name Bunny Brief, but his actual given name is Anthony Grzeszkowski.