Top Relief Pitcher of the Decade

We’ll take a quick detour from the spring training updates to provide some information on the candidates for top relief pitcher of the decade in our ongoing “Team of the Decade” polling over at the Rainiers homepage.

After relievers we’ll vote for the manager, and next week we’ll reveal the final, official, fan-voted Tacoma Rainiers Team of the Decade.

As for spring training, the Rainiers-Nashville game is on for today, I’m going and I’ll write about it late this afternoon.

Here are the reliever candidates:

  • Todd Williams – spent just one full season with the Rainiers, but it was memorable. Williams broke the Pacific Coast League single-season record with 32 saves in 2000, while posting a 2.98 ERA in 50 games.  The side-arming righthander made a rare late-career breakthrough, establishing himself as a major leaguer in Baltimore in 2005 – when he was 35 years old.
  • Brian Fuentes – the four-time National League All-Star pitched for Tacoma in 2001, striking out 70 batters in 52 innings with a 2.94 ERA. Has had great success as a major league closer despite scrapping his signature minor league move: the second base pickoff. He could wipe any runner off second base with his trick pickoff move, but to my knowledge he doesn’t use it in the majors. December 16, 2001: Denny Stark, Brian Fuentes and Jose Paniagua to Colorado for Jeff Cirillo. Ouch!
  • Justin Kaye – the slider machine with the descriptive last name, Kaye struck out a whopping 107 batters in just 77 innings in 2001 – a season in which he was often ranked in the Top-5 in PCL strikeouts despite not starting a game! Went 3-2, 2.92 for the PCL champs; returned in 2002 but was not as impressive, going 3-7, 4.04 with 66 K’s in 62 innings – although he did get a brief call-up to Seattle. Retired after the 2005 season.
  • George Sherrill – discovered by super-scout Charlie Kerfeld after toiling for five years in independent leagues, Sherrill has overcome a lot to have major league success. Sherrill reached Tacoma in 2004 and put up a 2.32 ERA in 36 games, notching 13 saves. Returned to Tacoma for 22 games in 2005, recording a 2.28 ERA before the Mariners called him up. Traded to Baltimore in the Adam Jones trade, Sherrill was an AL All-Star in 2008 when he saved 31 games. Currently with the Dodgers.
  • Randy Messenger – recorded 25 saves for the 2009 Rainiers – a total which stands as the third-highest in Tacoma franchise history. Messenger joined the Rainiers in 2008 and appeared in 12 games, going 6-0 with a 2.28 ERA. Returned in 2009 to go 0-2, 2.86 with those 25 saves in 52 games. Messenger spent time with the Mariners both seasons, but decided to try his luck in Japan for 2010.

Those are the candidates for reliever of the decade – make sure you vote!

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