Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #50 Julian Tavarez
Mike B. | On 02, Jan 2012
Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the the much traveled, Julian Tavarez.
Any player that has a 17-year Major League Baseball career has had a notable run, but a player who played for 11 teams is beyond noteworthy. Two decades ago, Julian Tavarez was a top prospect, starting pitcher with the Cleveland Indians.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Tavarez was signed as a free agent in 1990 by the Cleveland Indians. After working his way through the minor league system, he and Albie Lopez were the Tribe’s top two starting pitching prospects in 1993. Tavarez pitched in eight games, making seven starts, in 1993 with the Tribe. He was 2-2, with a 6.57 ERA and jettisoned back to the minor leagues for most of the 1994 season.
However, despite not having a place in the rotation, Tavarez pitched well enough to make the team out of spring training in 1995. Indians manager, Mike Hargrove, elected to keep Tavarez and move him to the bullpen. It didn’t take long before Tavarez’s cutting fastball moved him to the back of the Tribe’s bullpen. He became the top right-handed set up man for the Indians, setting up Jose Mesa. Tavarez had his best season as a professional in 1995, appearing in 57 games, going 10-2, with a 2.44 ERA in 85 innings. Tavarez’s 10 bullpen victories were the product of so many late inning comebacks, something that was synonymous with the 1995 Indians.
After a subpar 1996, the Indians traded Tavarez to the San Francisco Giants along with Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino for Matt Williams. Tavarez led the National League in appearances in 1997 and pitched three seasons with the club before beginning life as a baseball journeyman. After seven seasons in the big leagues, with only two teams, Tavarez would never spend more than two full seasons with any organization again.
Tavarez’s travels would take him to Colorado, the Chicago Cubs, Florida, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta and finally Washington. He finally had his opportunity to be a starting pitcher with the Cubs in 2001-02 and again with the Red Sox in 2007.
He finished his career in Washington in 2009, pitching 35 innings in 42 appearances before being released at the end of July. Tavarez retired with an 88-82 record, with a 4.46 ERA in 828 appearances. He finally made 108 starts late in his career.
Photo: Barry Chin/Boston Globe