Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade of note. We start with one of the best pitchers in the last 40 years for the Pirates.
John Candelaria, pitcher for the 1975-85 Pirates, who then returned to finish his career in 1993. He was a 6’7″ lefty taken in the second round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Pirates out of high school. He shot through the minors quickly for his age, going 28-11 before getting called on June 8, 1975 at just 21 years old, and that was with him debuting in pro ball the year after he was drafted. Candelaria pitched for Charleston of the Class-A Western Carolinas League in 1973, where he went 10-2, 3.79, with 60 strikeouts in 95 innings. He pitched for Salem of the Class-A Carolina League in 1974, going 11-8, 3.68 in 154 innings, with 147 strikeouts. He got one start for Charleston of the Triple-A International League and pitched 11 innings, allowing two runs, while picking up ten strikeouts. He was back in Charleston to start 1975, posting a 7-1, 1.77 record and 48 strikeouts in 61 innings before joining the Pirates for his debut on June 8th. Four starts into his big league career, he struck out 13 Chicago Cubs during a 5-2 complete game win. Candelaria finished 8-6, 2.76 in 120.2 innings over 18 starts during his rookie season, with the Pirates also winning all four games that he got a no-decision. In the playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds, with the Pirates down 2-0 in a best-of-five series, Candelaria took the ball in game three and threw 7.2 innings, allowing three runs while striking out 14 hitters, though the Pirates lost that game in ten innings.
Candelaria was in the rotation for the entire 1976 season, and the Pirates went 20-11 in his starts which included one very special game. On August 9th, he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing just one walk, while two other runners also reached base due to fielding errors. All three runners reached in the third inning, but he kept them from scoring. It is still the last Pirates no-hitter thrown by a single player, with the Ricardo Rincon, Francisco Cordova combined no-hitter the only other one since. He finished the season with a 16-7, 3.15 record in 220 innings, with 138 strikeouts, which ranks as his second best season mark in the strikeout department. Candelaria had an amazing 1977 season, going 20-5, 2.34 in 230.2 innings, leading the National League in ERA and winning percentage. He only finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, despite putting up a better WAR than the 1st/2nd place finishers. He got elected to the All-Star game that year, in what would end up being the only All-Star selection of his career, but he did not appear in the game. That 20-win season would end up being a career high and it would take him until 1983 to win as many as 15 games again in one year. He received mild MVP support for the only time in his career, finishing 18th in the voting.
Candelaria had a mediocre 1978 season by the high standards he set the previous season. He went 12-11, 3.24 in 189 innings, finishing with 94 strikeouts. During the 1979 season, he helped pitch the Pirates to the playoffs by going 14-9, 3.22 in 207 innings over 30 startsm throwing eight complete games. He pitched well in game one of the NLCS against the Reds, getting a no-decision after allowing two runs in seven innings. He pitched poorly in game three of the World Series, taking the loss with six runs allowed in three innings. He then rebounded nicely in game six when he went six shutout innings for the win. The following year saw him go 11-14, 4.01 in 233.1 innings. He completed seven of 34 starts, and he finished with 97 strikeouts. It was a career high for innings, but also his worst full season with the Pirates. Candelaria was limited to just six starts during the strike-shortened 1981 season. His last start was six shutout innings on May 10th, in which he suffered a torn left bicep in the third inning on what was described as a cold wet day. Candelaria said afterwards that they should have never been playing in those conditions. He went 2-2, 3.54 in 40.2 innings that year. He returned healthy in 1982 and had a strong season, going 12-7, 2.94, with 133 strikeouts in 174.2 innings over 30 starts. His only complete game that year was a shutout. In 1983, he went 15-8, 3.23 in 197.2 innings, with a career high 157 strikeouts. He was just as good in 1984, posting a 12-11, 2.72 record in 185.1 innings, finishing with 133 strikeouts for the third time in his career.
Candelaria was moved to the bullpen in 1985, where he saved nine games, while posting a 3.64 ERA in 54.1 innings, before the Pirates traded him to the California Angels in a six-player deal in early August. The bullpen move was toyed with in 1984, but with lefty Rod Scurry struggling in Spring Training in 1985, manager Chuck Tanner decided to make the move that year. Candelaria had been effective in limited bullpen work before, but he was very unhappy in Pittsburgh, and he had bonuses in his contract tied to starting pitcher work, so that made things worse with the team and led to his trade. The Angels threw him right in the rotation and he had a 7-3, 3.80 record in 71 innings over 13 starts. He went 10-2, 2.55 in 16 starts during the 1986 season, while missing three months due to minor elbow surgery. Candelaria had an 8-6, 4.71 rcord in 116.2 innings over 20 starts with the Angels, who traded him to the New York Mets late in the season, where he made three starts before becoming a free agent. He faced the Pirates in his first start and got roughed up, allowing five runs in 1.1 innings. He then gave up three runs over 11 innings in the next two games, winning both contests.
Candelaria signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees during the 1987-88 off-season. He had a strong first year, going 13-7, 3.38, with 121 strikeouts in 157 innings. He completed six of 24 starts and he threw his final two career shutouts. He struggled with a 3-3, 5.14 record in 49 innings over six starts and four relief appearances for the 1989 Yankees. He was traded on August 29, 1989 to the Montreal Expos, where he finished the season with a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings of relief work. Candelaria signed with the Minnesota Twins for the 1990 season, though he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in July. He combined to go 7-6, 3.95, with five saves in 79.2 inning over 47 appearances (three starts). He spent the next two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he went to the bullpen full-time as a lefty specialist. Candelaria had a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings over 59 appearances in 1991, followed by a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings over 50 games in 1992. He returned to the Pirates as a free agent for the 1993 season, but he was released in July after posting an 8.24 ERA in 19.2 innings over 24 games. That move ended his career. Candelaria won 124 games for the Pirates, the 11th highest total in franchise history. He finished his 19-year career with a 177-122, 3.33 record in 2,525.2 innings, with 356 starts, 244 relief appearances, 54 complete games, 13 shutouts, 29 saves and 1,673 strikeouts. He ended up playing for eight different teams in his big league career. Over the last 64 seasons, no one has won more games in a Pirates uniform. Candelaria turns 69 today.
Adam LaRoche, first baseman for the 2007-09 Pirates. He was drafted twice by the Florida Marlins, 1998 out of high school (18th round) and 1999 out community college (42nd round), before signing with the Atlanta Braves after the drafted him in the 29th round in 2000 out of Seminole State College. It took him four seasons to make the majors, debuting in 2004 at 24 years old. LaRoche made his pro debut in the short-season Appalachian League with Danville, where he hit .308 with 38 runs, 23 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs and an .889 OPS in 56 games. He moved up to Myrtle Beach of the High-A Carolina League in 2001, skipping Low-A ball. He hit .251 that season, with 49 runs, 31 doubles, seven homers, 47 RBIs and .666 OPS in 126 games. He batted .317 in 114 games in 2006, with 47 runs, 26 doubles, 13 homers, 72 RBIs and an .859 OPS, while splitting the year between Myrtle Beach and Double-A Greenville of the Southern League. He had solid stats with Greenville, but he put up better numbers at the lower level. The 2003 season was split between Greenville and Triple-A Richmond of the International League. LaRoche combined to hit .290 with 75 runs, 33 doubles, 20 homers, 72 RBIs, 61 walks and an .856 OPS in 133 games, with similar results with each team.
LaRoche made the Opening Day roster for the Braves in 2004 and hit .278 with 45 runs, 27 doubles, 13 homers, 45 RBIs and an .821 OPS in 110 games that season. He missed five weeks mid-season with a shoulder injury. He hit .259 in 2005, with 53 runs, 28 doubles, 20 homers, 78 RBIs and a .775 OPS in 141 games. He continued to improve in 2006, batting .285 with 89 runs scored, 38 doubles, 32 homers, 90 RBIs and 55 walks, leading to a career best .915 OPS. The Pirates acquired him in January of 2007 in a four-player deal, which saw closer Mike Gonzalez head to Atlanta. LaRoche hit .272 in 152 games during his first season in Pittsburgh, with 71 runs scored, a career high 42 doubles, 21 homers, 88 RBIs, 62 walks and an .803 OPS. He put up similar results in 2008, batting .270 with 66 runs scored, 32 doubles, 25 homers, 85 RBIs and 54 walks in 136 games. He batted 78 fewer times in 2008, so those similar numbers led to a 38-point jump in his OPS (.841). He was traded to the Boston Red Sox mid-season in 2009, but not before he picked up 25 doubles, 12 homers, 40 RBIs and a .770 OPS in 87 games. LaRoche spent just nine days in Boston, then got traded to the Atlanta Braves. Between the three stops that season, he hit .277 in 150 games, with 78 runs, 38 doubles, 25 homers, 83 RBIs, 69 walks and an .843 OPS. He would go on to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent signing in 2010, where he hit .261 with 75 runs, 37 doubles, 25 homers, 100 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 151 games. That led to back-to-back two-year deals with the Washington Nationals.
LaRoche played just 43 games in 2011 due to a shoulder injury that required season ending surgery in June. Even when he was playing, he wasn’t healthy, which resulted in a .172/.288/.258 slash line. He bounced back with his best season in the majors in 2012, hitting .271 with 76 runs, 35 doubles, 33 homers, 100 RBIs, 67 walks and an .853 OPS in 154 games, which led to his only All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and a sixth place finish in the MVP voting. His numbers dropped off in 2013 when he hit .237 in 152 games, with 70 runs, 19 doubles, 20 homers, 62 RBIs and a .735 OPS. He set a career best with 72 walks that year, which he would top in 2014. LaRoche hit .259 in 140 games during that final year with the Nationals, finishing with 73 runs, 19 doubles, 26 homers, 92 RBIs and an .817 OPS. He signed with the Chicago White Sox in 2015 and hit .207 with 41 runs, 21 doubles, 12 homers, 44 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 127 games. He was signed for 2016, but retired and walked away from $13M contract because the White Sox had issues with his son spending so much time with the team during Spring Training. LaRoche hit .265 with 58 homers and 213 RBIs in 375 games in Pittsburgh. During his 12-year big league career, he was a .260 hitter over 1,605 games, with 752 runs scored, 340 doubles, 255 homers and 882 RBIs. His brother Andy LaRoche was his teammate on the 2008-09 Pirates and his father Dave LaRoche pitched 14 seasons in the majors.
Matt Skrmetta, relief pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He played a total of 15 years in pro ball, including two seasons in Japan. Skrmetta was originally drafted out of high school in 1990 by the Chicago White Sox, who took him in the 41st round. He decided to go to college (Jacksonville), where he was a 26th round pick three years later by the Detroit Tigers. He debuted in pro ball with Bristol of the short-season Appalachian League, where he went 2-3, 4.89, with 22 walks and 29 strikeouts in 35 innings. He remained in short-season ball in 1994, moving up to Jamestown of the New York-Penn League. Skrmetta went 5-3, 3.17 in 93.2 innings that season over 15 starts and two relief appearances. He spent the 1995 season with Fayetteville of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he pitched in relief and had a 9-4, 2.71 record in 89.2 innings over 44 games (two starts), with 105 strikeouts. Most of the 1996 season was spent in High-A with Lakeland of the Florida State League. Skrmetta went 5-5, 3.93, with 52 strikeouts in 52.2 innings over 40 appearances. He made it to Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League for four games (three runs over six innings) in 1996, before he was traded to the San Diego Padres during the following Spring Training. The Padres split his first seasons between High-A Rancho Cucamonga of the California League and Double-A Mobile of the Southern League. He did much better at the lower level, with a 1.59 ERA over 28.1 innings in the hitter-friendly California League, compared to a 5.23 ERA over 32.2 innings in the neutral Southern League. He had a total of 66 strikeouts in 61 innings that year.
Skrmetta spent 1998 back in the Southern League with Mobile, where he went 9-2, 3.35 in 51 appearances, with 77 strikeouts in 78 innings. Despite solid results, he was back in Mobile for half of 1999, posting a 6.27 ERA in 37.1 innings over 25 games there, to go along with a 3.45 ERA in 28.2 innings over 20 games with Las Vegas of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which wasn’t a pitcher-friendly environment. Skrmetta became a minor league free agent after the 1999 season and signed with the Montreal Expos. He made his Major League debut that June. He had a 5.45 ERA, ten saves and 38 strikeouts in 34.2 innings with Ottawa of the Triple-A International League that season. He made six relief appearances with the Expos, giving up ten runs in 5.1 innings. He then got traded to the Pirates for minor league infielder Jarrod Patterson in August. After a stint with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League in which he allowed three earned runs and struck out 13 batters in 8.1 innings, he joined the Pirates in September and won his first game with 1.1 scoreless innings. His next five appearances saw him give up 12 runs over 5.1 innings, allowing at least one run in all five games. He went 2-2, 9.64 in 9.1 innings over eight appearances in his short time in Pittsburgh.
Skrmetta was let go by the Pirates shortly after the 2000 season ended and he played another seven seasons in pro ball without another trip to the majors. He spent time in five different organizations, Japan and independent ball during those final seven years. He was with the Cincinnati Reds (2001), Kansas Royals (2002), Los Angeles Dodgers (2002), Expos (2004) and Chicago White Sox (2006). He put up nice numbers in 2001 with Louisville of the International League, going 2-4, 2.48 with six saves and 58 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. He impressed with Omaha of the Pacific Coast League in 2002, going 8-0, 2.51 in 61 innings. He saw brief time with Las Vegas of the PCL as well (Dodgers), where he allowed nine runs in 7.1 innings. Skrmetta had a 3.86 ERA and 11 saves in 16.1 innings over 18 appearances in Japan in 2003. He pitched over three levels for the Expos in 2004, posting a 3.07 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. He missed the beginning of the year due to shoulder surgery that he had in September of 2003. He pitched in Japan in 2005, but he lasted just 7.1 innings and allowed seven runs. His career wrapped up a 6.86 ERA in 19.2 innings with Charlotte of the International League in 2006, and four games in the independent Atlantic League in 2007, when he played for a team called the Road Warriors, which only played road games. Skrmetta threw hard during his peak, with a fastball that averaged 95 MPH on the old radar guns that picked the ball up later than the new guns that record peak velocity. He took up scouting after his playing career was over.
Don Wengert, pitcher for the 2001 Pirates. He was originally a 60th round draft pick out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1988. He decided to attend college, where the Oakland A’s picked him in the fourth round in 1992 out of Iowa State. Wengert started his pro career in the short-season Northwest League in 1992, posting a 1.46 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 37 innings with Southern Oregon. He then moved up to the Class-A Midwest League, where he had a 3.38 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 40 innings with Madison. He started 1993 back with Madison, before moving up to High-A Modesto of the California League. He combined to go 9-11, 3.39 in 149 innings, with better results at the lower level. He had 89 strikeouts that season, then improved greatly in that area in 1994. He had a 2.95 ERA in 42.2 innings with Modesto to start 1994, then had a 6-4, 3.26 record in 99.1 innings with Huntsville of the Double-A Southern League. He combined for 144 strikeouts in 142 innings. The 1995 season was split between Edmonton of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and the majors with the A’s. He made it to the majors despite a 7.38 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 39 innings with Edmonton. Wengert’s best results in the majors came during his rookie season in the strike-shortened 1995 campaign, when teams began play in late April and played a 144-game schedule. He made 19 appearances for the A’s, posting a 3.34 ERA in 29.2 innings.
Wengert switched between starting and relieving in the majors over the 1996-97 seasons. In 1996, he went 7-11, 5.58 in 161.1 innings, with 25 starts and 11 relief outings. He had a career high 75 strikeouts that season. In 1997, he made 12 starts and 37 relief appearances, going 5-11, 6.04 in 134 innings. In November of 1997, he was traded to the San Diego Padres in a four-player deal, with two players going each way. Wengert bounced around after departing Oakland, spending time in the majors with the Padres (1998), Chicago Cubs (1998), Kansas City Royals (1999) and Atlanta Braves (2000) over the next three seasons. He was also a member of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros during that time, though he didn’t make any big league appearances with either team. Wengert had a 5.93 ERA in 13.2 innings over ten appearances with the Padres before they traded him on May 5th. He went 1-5, 5.07 in six starts and 15 relief appearances for the Cubs, throwing a total of 49.2 innings. He also made nine starts that year for Triple-A Iowa of the Pacific Coast League, putting up a 4.53 ERA in 53 innings. He had a 9.25 ERA in 24.1 innings over 11 games with the 1999 Royals. That season he split 62.1 innings in Triple-A between Omaha of the PCL (Royals), Columbus of the International League (Yankees) and Richmond of the International League (Braves).
Wengert had a 7.20 ERA for the 2000 Braves, with ten innings pitched and ten appearances. He spent the rest of the season with Richmond, going 4-7, 4.23 in 110.2 innings over 12 starts and 17 relief appearances. He joined the Pirates as a minor league free agent in January of 2001 and he made four starts for the team in May, while spending the rest of the year with Triple-A Nashville of the PCL, where he had a 4.10 ERA in 18 starts. The Pirates won two of those games, though he received a no-decision both times. He went 0-2, 12.38 in 16 innings during his brief time in Pittsburgh, which ended up being his final big league season. He left via free agency after the season and spent 2002 in Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League for the Boston Red Sox before retiring. Wengert went 8-12, 4.53 in 169 innings as a full-time starter during his final seasons. He played for six different teams in seven years in the majors, going 14-32, 6.01 in 48 starts and 112 relief appearances, totaling 438.2 innings.
Bob Addis, pinch-hitter for the 1953 Pirates. He originally signed with the New York Yankees as an outfielder at 17 years old in 1943. He hit .266 with 41 runs, 21 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and a .702 OPS in 53 games for Wellsville of the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League during his first season in pro ball. He was drafted into service after one season in the minors. He spent the next two years (1944-45) in the Marines, before returning to baseball in 1946. He hit .376 in brief time during the 1946 season, splitting the year between Wellsville and Binghamton of the Class-A Eastern League. He hit .412 in 34 games during his return to Wellsville, then batted .235 in 11 games with Binghamton. Addis hit .313 with 91 runs, 29 doubles, 12 homers, 77 RBIs, 16 steals and in 135 games during the 1947 season, which was mostly (120 games) spent with Norfolk of the Class-B Piedmont League. He had an .834 OPS with Norfolk that season, and an .835 OPS in 15 games with Augusta of the Class-A South Atlantic League. He was then taken in the minor league draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers and spent two seasons in their system before being traded to the Boston Braves after the 1949 season. Addis did well in 1948 at the highest level of the minors, hitting .314 with 88 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 67 RBIs and an .826 OPS in 126 games for St Paul of the Triple-A American Association. He spent most of 1949 back in St Paul, while also seeing time with Montreal of the Triple-A International League. He was even better than the previous year, hitting .345 with 100 runs, 55 extra-base hits, 80 RBIs, 73 walks and a .921 OPS in 139 games between both stops.
After joining the Braves in 1950, Addis went to Milwaukee of the American Association, where he hit .323 in 136 games, with 80 runs, 51 extra-base hits, 76 RBIs and an .861 OPS. He made his big league debut on September 1, 1950 and hit .250/.323/.286 in 16 games. He .276 in 85 games in 1951, with 23 runs, eight extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and a .634 OPS. He started 40 games that season, seeing at least seven starts at all three outfield spots. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs right after the season ended. Addis split his playing time in 1952 between right field and center field, while hitting .295 with 38 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and a .709 OPS in 93 games. He was hitting .167/.286/.250 in ten games in 1953 when he was part of the famous ten-player Ralph Kiner trade with the Chicago Cubs on June 4th. Addis played just four big league games after the deal, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He played those four games with the Pirates between June 5th and June 12th, then was sold to Toronto of the International League on June 13th, along with infielder Clem Koshorek. On the day the Pirates sold Addis to Toronto, they said that they had too many left-handed hitting outfielders and one had to go. The next day they acquired left-handed hitting outfielder Hal Rice.
Addis remained in pro ball through the end of the 1956 season, seeing time with four Triple-A teams during the 1954-56 seasons. He hit .269 with 52 runs, 12 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBIs in 88 games with Toronto to finish out the 1953 season. He played 86 games in the American Association in 1954 split between Charleston (75 games) and Kansas City (11 games). He batted .272 with 20 runs, 11 doubles, one homer and 23 RBIs. Addis played for Montreal in 1955, returning to the team six years after his first stint with the club. He hit just .227 in 75 games in 1955, finishing with a .621 OPS. His final season in 1956 saw him play 15 games for Louisville of the American Association. He batted .316 in his limited time that year. In his 208 big league games, he batted .281 with 22 doubles two homers, 47 RBIs and 70 runs scored.
On this date in 1930, the Pirates traded shortstop Dick Bartell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for shortstop Tommy Thevenow and pitcher Claude Willoughby. The move proved the be very one-sided in favor of the Phillies. Bartell played 14 more seasons in the majors, while Willoughby was gone before June, and Thevenow was nowhere near the quality player that Bartell was at shortstop. The lucky part for the Pirates was that the shortstop position was soon to be filled in Pittsburgh by the man who still ranks as the best since Honus Wagner at the position, Arky Vaughan. However, it would have helped a lot to get better value for Bartell. We posted a large article on Bartell here, covering his time with the Pirates. He finished his career with 41.7 WAR, with 36.8 coming after he left the Pirates. Thevenow contributed -1.4 WAR before being sold to the Cincinnati Reds following the 1935 season. Willoughby had a 6.31 ERA in 25.2 innings with the Pirates (-0.5 WAR).