Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who were traded for Jason Schmidt. Before we get into them, current Pirates first baseman Alfonso Rivas turns 27 today.
Andy LaRoche, third baseman for the 2008-10 Pirates. He was signed in 2003 by the Los Angeles Dodgers after they took him in the 39th round of the amateur draft out of Grayson College. LaRoche was also drafted a year earlier by the San Diego Padres (21st round), but decided to go back to college. He quickly established himself as a top prospects in the Dodgers system, getting rated in Baseball America’s top 100 after one full season. He would make their top 100 list every year over the next three season, getting ranked as high as 19th overall twice. LaRoche debuted in pro ball with Ogden of the short-season Pioneer League, where he put up a .501 OPS over six games. He split the 2004 season evenly between Columbus of the Low-A South Atlantic League and Vero Beach of the High-A Florida State League, hitting .261 over 127 games, with 78 runs, 33 doubles, 23 homers, 76 RBIs and an .819 OPS. He had much better results that year at the lower level. He split the 2005 season evenly between Vero Beach (63 games) and Jacksonville of the Double-A Southern League (64 games), batting .305 over 127 games, with 95 runs, 26 doubles, 30 homers, 94 RBIs, 51 walks and a .926 OPS. He once again put up better results at the lower level, posting a 1.031 OPS for Vero Beach that year. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the 2005 season, where he hit .352/.394/.451 in 23 games. LaRoche once again had an even split between two levels during the 2006 season, spending the first half of the year with Jacksonville, where he had a .309 average and a .901 OPS. After being promoted to Las Vegas of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, he had a .322 average, 14 doubles and ten homers in 55 games. He combined to hit .315 over 117 games, with 77 runs, 27 doubles, 19 homers, 81 RBIs, 66 walks and a .924 OPS.
LaRoche spent May of 2007 with the Dodgers, then came back to the majors later in the year as a September call-up. He hit .226 over 35 big league games that year, with 16 runs, five doubles, one homer, ten RBIs and a .677 OPS. He had a .309 average, 55 runs, 18 doubles, 18 homers, 48 RBIs and .987 OPS in 73 games with Las Vegas that year. LaRoche opened up the 2008 season in Las Vegas, where he had an .891 OPS in 39 games. He joined the Dodgers in mid-June, then hit .203/.319/.322 over 27 gmaes, with six runs, one double, two homers and six RBIs. The Pirates acquired LaRoche at the 2008 trading deadline, as one of four players they received in the Jason Bay deal. LaRoche was handed the third base job for the Pirates, starting 45 of the last 50 games of the season. He hit .152/.227/.232 in 183 plate appearances, with 11 runs, four doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs. LaRoche was the starting third baseman for the 2009 season, playing 150 games total, with 142 games coming as a starter. He hit .258 in 590 plate appearances, with 64 runs, 29 doubles, five triples, 12 homers, 64 RBIs, 50 walks and a .731 OPS. He finished as the team leader in games played, hits, doubles and RBIs. His 2010 season did not go well, which led to him losing his starting spot when Pedro Alvarez was called to the majors. He batted .206/.268/.287 over 102 games, with 26 runs, eight doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs. He became a free agent after the season, then signed with the Oakland A’s. He played Venezuelan winter ball during the 2010-11 off-season, finishing that time with a .186 average and a .607 OPS over 21 games.
LaRoche played 40 games for the 2011 A’s, finishing the year with a .247 average, ten runs, six doubles, no homers, five RBIs and a .654 OPS. The rest of the season was spent with Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a .254 average and a .710 OPS in 54 games. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, then spent the first two months at Columbus of the Triple-A International League. He had a .235 average and a .704 OPS in 46 games before being released. He then signed with the Boston Red Sox, where he finishing the year at Pawtucket of the International League with a .264 average and an .800 OPS in 50 games. LaRoche made it back to the majors for one game with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, when he went 0-for-4 on June 9th. The rest of the year was spent with Buffalo of the International League, where he hit .271 in 104 games, with 45 runs, 21 doubles, 12 homers, 51 RBIs and a .772 OPS. He remained with Toronto in Buffalo for the 2014 season, when he hit .248/.309/.396 in 60 games. He spent the 2015-16 seasons playing independent ball, before retiring. He hit .269/.386/.559 over 26 games for Wichita of the American Association in 2015. He then batted .269/.356/.423 over 16 games for Sugar Land of the Atlantic League in 2016. He hit .226 during his six seasons in the majors, with 133 runs, 53 doubles, 22 homers and 113 RBIs in 404 games. His brother Adam played for the 2007-09 Pirates as part of his 12-year career, making them one of 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates. His father Dave pitched 14 seasons in the majors.
Armando Rios, outfielder for the 2001-02 Pirates. He was signed in 1994 by the San Francisco Giants as a non-drafted free agent at 22 years old. He was born in Puerto Rico, but he attended UNC-Charlotte and LSU before signing. Rios played for Clinton of the Low-A Midwest League during his first season. He hit .295 over 119 games, with 67 runs, 35 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs, 59 walks and an .814 OPS in 119 games. He went to San Jose of the High-A California League for the 1995 season, where he hit .293 over 128 games, with 76 runs, 45 extra-base hits (34 doubles), 75 RBIs, 51 steals, 74 walks and an .807 OPS. He spent the next two years at Shreveport of the Double-A Texas League, where he .283 over 92 games in 1996, with 62 runs, 22 doubles, 12 homers, 49 RBIs and an .836 OPS. One year after stealing 51 bases with an 84% success rate, he went 9-for-18 in steals during the 1996 season. That was followed by a .289 average in 1997, with 86 runs scored, 30 doubles, 14 homers, 79 RBIs, 17 steals, 63 walks and an .841 OPS over 127 games. He was promoted to Triple-A in 1998, where he put up big numbers for Fresno of the Pacific Coast League. He hit .301 over 125 games that year, with 85 runs, 23 doubles, 26 homers, 103 RBIs, 17 steals and a .911 OPS. Rios made his Major League debut a few weeks before his 27th birthday, getting a brief trial at the end of the 1998 season. He was given just ten plate appearances in 12 games, but he made the most of them, going 4-for-7 with two homers and three walks.
Rios started the 1999 season at Fresno, then returned there mid-season on rehab after undergoing minor shoulder surgery in June. He hit .327 over 72 games for the 1999 Giants, with 32 runs, nine doubles, seven homers, 29 RBIs and a .947 OPS. That performance earned him his first full season in the majors in 2000. In what turned out to be his only full injury-free season in the majors, Rios hit .266 over 115 games, with 38 runs, 15 doubles, five triples, ten homers, 50 RBIs and an .849 OPS. He made 50 starts, seeing most of his time in right field. The Pirates acquired Rios and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong on July 30, 2001 from the San Francisco Giants for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. Rios was hitting .260 at the time of the deal, with 38 runs, 17 doubles, 14 homers, 49 RBIs and a .795 OPS. He tore his ACL just two games into his time with the Pirates. The play that ended his season came in San Francisco on a pop up off of the bat of Jason Schmidt. Rios missed some time during the 2012 season as well with minor ailments, finishing the year with a .264 average over 76 games, with 20 runs, 11 doubles, one homer, 24 RBIs and a .650 OPS. He was released by the Pirates following the 2002 season when they balked at going to arbitration with him. It turned out to be a wise decision. He signed a free agent deal with the Chicago White Sox in January of 2003.
Rios hit .212 over 49 games for the 2003 White Sox, with four runs, three doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs and a .544 OPS. He then spent the rest of his career in the minors. He actually did quite well during that 2003 season for Charlotte of the Triple-A International League, posting an .898 OPS in 45 games. He spent time in the Baltimore Orioles and St Louis Cardinals system in 2004, as well as a stint in Mexico (stats as unavailable for that time). He did well in his Triple-A time that year by posting a .925 OPS, though that amounted to just 22 games split between Ottawa of the International League (Orioles) and Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (Cardinals). Rios started playing winter ball in Puerto Rico and Mexico during the 2004-05 off-season, then continued to play winter ball each year through the 2010-11 off-season. His last summer ball action was in 2005, when he hit .284/.358/.558 over 52 games for Long Island of the independent Atlantic League. He had an .865 OPS over 55 games during the 2006-07 winter, which was mostly spent in Mexico. He had a .325 average and an .851 OPS over 56 games with Guasave during the 2007-08 winter. He spent 2008-09 in Puerto Rico, where he hit .242/.279/.359 in 36 games for Carolina. He had a strong season for Carolina during the 2009-10 winter, helping them to the Caribbean Series. He hit .360/.452/.447 over 37 games that off-season. Rios struggled during his final winter, batting .194/.296/.242 over 24 games for Carolina. He hit .269 over his six seasons in the majors, with 135 runs, 55 doubles, 36 homers and 167 RBIs over 419 games. Despite 51 steals in one minor league season, he had just 14 stolen bases in the majors in 24 attempts.
Denny Neagle, pitcher for the 1992-96 Pirates. He was a third round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1989 out of the University of Minnesota. He debuted in pro ball in the short-season Appalachian League with Elizabethton, before moving up to Kenosha of the Class-A Midwest League to finish the 1989 season. He pitched six games as each level, with a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings with Elizabethton, followed by a 1.65 ERA in 43.2 innings in Kenosha. He had 72 strikeouts and a 1.05 WHIP in 65.2 innings that year. Neagle made ten starts with Visalia of the High-A California League in 1990, where he posted an 8-0, 1.43 record, an 0.87 WHIP and 92 strikeouts in 63 innings. He was then promoted to Orlando of the Double-A Southern League, where he had a 12-3, 2.45 record, a 1.03 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 121.1 innings over 17 starts, giving him 20 wins for the season. He spent the 1991 season playing for Portland of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he had a 9-4, 3.27 record, a 1.27 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 104.2 innings over 17 starts and two relief appearances. He made three starts and four relief appearances for the 1991 Twins, going 0-1, 4.05 in 20 innings, with 14 strikeouts and a 1.75 WHIP. The Pirates acquired Neagle and Midre Cummings from the Twins on March 27, 1992 in exchange for John Smiley, who happened to be celebrating his 27th birthday that same day. Neagle pitched mainly out of the bullpen during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, putting up lackluster results. He went 4-6, 4.48 during the 1992 season, with 77 strikeouts and a 1.44 WHIP in 86.1 innings over 55 games (six starts). That was followed by a 3-5, 5.31 record, a 1.46 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 81.1 innings over 50 appearances (seven starts) during the 1993 season. Neagle became a full-time starter during the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he went 9-10, 5.12 in 137 innings over 24 outings, with 122 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP.
The 1995 season started a few weeks late due to the strike from 1994, but things clicked for Neagle at some point over the long off-season. He went 13-8, 3.43 that season, while leading the National League in starts (31) and innings pitched (209.2). He had 150 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. He made the All-Star team that year for the first of two times during his career. He was even better in 1996, although he didn’t last the entire season in Pittsburgh. The Pirates traded Neagle to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Schmidt and two minor league players on August 28, 1996. At the time of the trade, he was 14-6, 3.05 in 182.2 innings over 27 starts, with 131 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He had a 5.59 ERA in six starts after the trade, finishing the year with 149 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP in 221.1 innings. His time with the Pirates helped him to an eighth place finish in the Cy Young voting. Even though the Pirates did well with Jason Schmidt as the the return, they got rid of Neagle one year too soon. He had a 20-5, 2.97 record and a 1.08 WHIP in 233.1 innings in 1997, while setting a career best with 172 strikeouts. He threw four complete games in his 34 starts that year, with all four being shutouts. He made his second All-Star appearance, and he finished third in the Cy Young voting. He went 16-11, 3.55 in 1998, with 165 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP over 210.1 innings, while pitching his last season for the Braves.
Neagle was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1998 season. He spent one full year in Cincinnati, though he was limited to 19 starts, plus three rehab appearances in the minors. He had a 9-5, 4.27 record in 111.2 innings during the 1999 season, with 76 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP. He was traded to the New York Yankees in the middle of the 2000 season, then saw a major drop in his performance. He had a 3.52 ERA, 88 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP over 117.2 innings for the 2000 Reds. Neagle had a 5.81 ERA, 58 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP in 91.1 innings for the 2000 Yankees. He still managed to finish with a 15-9 record that year, while picking up a total of 146 strikeouts in 209 innings. He signed a free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies after the 2000 season, but that contract did not go well for Colorado. He ended up playing just over two years of a five-year/$51 M contract. He had a 9-8, 5.38 record, 139 strikeouts and a 1.48 WHIP over 170.2 innings in 30 starts for the 2001 Rockies. The numbers were inflated by playing in Colorado, but his ERA was slightly above the team ERA for the season. He had an 8-11, 5.26 record in 28 starts and seven relief appearances for the 2002 Rockies. He had 111 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP in 164.1 innings. Neagle had a 7.90 ERA in seven starts during his final season in the majors, finishing with 21 strikeouts and a 1.67 WHIP over 35.1 innings. He also made six rehab starts in the minors that year. He was injured for the entire 2004 season, then legal issues caused the Rockies to cancel the final year of his deal. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 2005, but injuries ended his career that year. He never pitched at any level after the 2003 season. Neagle went 124-92, 4.24 in his career over 13 seasons in the majors. He threw a total of 1,890.1 innings over 286 starts and 106 relief appearances. He finished with 1,415 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. He went 43-35, 4.02 in 697 innings over 95 starts and 92 relief appearances while with the Pirates.
Tom Parsons, starting pitcher for the Pirates on September 5, 1963. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1957, making his debut in the minors at 17 years old. Parsons was a 6’7″ righty, who pitched three years in the low minors, prior to moving up to Triple-A in 1960. He went 8-4, 4.48 in 96 innings for Salem of the Class-D Appalachian League in 1957, after signing right out of high school on June 25th. He finished that year with a 1.91 WHIP, 90 walks and 135 strikeouts. He got a Spring Training invite to the Pirates in 1958, but he was among the early cuts. He moved up to Grand Forks of the Class-C Northern League in 1958, where he went 6-8, 5.12 over 102 innings, with a 2.08 WHIP, 93 walks and 73 strikeouts. He stayed in Class-C ball in 1959, while moving to Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League. He went 13-10, 4.57 in 187 innings that year, with a 1.50 WHIP, 97 walks and 207 strikeouts. He made the large jump to Triple-A in 1960, where he had a 12-7, 3.19 record, a 1.37 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 189 innings for Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. He went to Spring Training that year with the Pirates, before being sent to Salt Lake City. The Pirates sent infielder Dick Barone to Salt Lake City in exchange for Parsons in October of 1960. The next three years were spent with Columbus of the Triple-A International League.
Parsons went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1961. He was with the team until April 4th, when they trimmed the roster to 28 players. He went 4-3, 4.75 over 16 starts for Columbus in 1961, seeing limited action that year due to a sore arm. He had 59 strikeouts and a 1.49 WHIP. He then had a 9-10, 4.31 record, 104 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP over 163 innings for Columbus in 1962, after being cut from the Spring Training roster on March 31st. Before making his Major League debut during the 1963 season as a September call-up, he had an 11-15, 3.47 record, a 1.20 WHIP and 121 strikeouts in 174 innings for Columbus. He got a late start to the season due to serving briefly in the Marines over the 1962-63 off-season, with the back-end of his service spilling into Spring Training. Parsons started for the Pirates in Milwaukee against the Braves on September 5, 1963. He lost 8-0, going 4.1 innings, with six runs (five earned) allowed on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts. He allowed a three-run homer to Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews during the third inning of that game. That would end up being his only game for the Pirates. He came down with right shoulder tendinitis after that game, so he was shut down until the following Spring.
Parsons was one of the last cuts during Spring Training in 1964. His case wasn’t helped by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a short time in March. He had an 8-7, 4.20 record, 108 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP in 137 innings at Triple-A during the 1964 season, while splitting his time between Columbus and Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League. He was actually traded to the Houston Colt .45s in June, but the deal was reversed later in the year. He was sold to the New York Mets in September of 1964. They used him four times in the majors that year (two starts), resulting in a 4.19 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and ten strikeouts over 19.1 innings. He saw regular big league action during the 1965 season, when he went 1-10, 4.67 in 11 starts and 24 relief appearances, finishing with 58 strikeouts and 1.38 WHIP over 90.2 innings. He spent his last four seasons of pro ball (1966-69) back in the minors. Three of those years where spent with the Houston Astros organization, after the Mets traded him there for Jerry Grote. Parsons was back in Oklahoma City for the 1966-68 seasons, seeing plenty of work, with occasional starts. He went 6-9, 4.20 over 133 innings during the 1966 season, with 62 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP. He went 7-11, 3.16 in 160 innings during the 1967 season, with 122 strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP. Parsons finished up his Oklahoma City time with a 4-7, 4.85 record, 79 strikeouts and a 1.49 WHIP over 104 frames. His final season of pro ball was spent with Pittsfield of the Double-A Eastern League, where he went 7-7, 2.25 in 132 innings of relief work (one start in 47 games), with 92 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. Parsons turns 84 years old today. His cousin Art Lamb pitched in the Pirates minor league system in 1959, but had to retire due to an arm injury at 18 years old. His other cousin John Lamb, made it to the majors with the Pirates during the 1970-71 and 1973 seasons. They are one of 26 groups of relatives to play for the Pirates.