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 career of relief pitcher, Ricardo Rincon.
The Indians have a long list of trades that didn’t meet expectations over time, and while the acquisition of Ricardo Rincon would not be at the top of the list, it certainly would receive at least honorable mention.
Rincon was acquired by the Tribe on November 18, 1998 for Brian Giles from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rincon had had two successful seasons to start his career in the Pirates bullpen. In 1998, Rincon had a 2.91 ERA in 60 appearances. The Indians saw Rincon as their left handed setup pitcher in the bullpen, a role they were searching to fill since Paul Assenmacher had retired.
Giles on the other hand had little room in the Indians outfield with David Justice, Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez patrolling the Jacobs’ Field turf. Giles had filled in during injuries and given the three days off over the previous two seasons, earning himself considerable playing time, but he was an expendable piece for the Tribe. The move, like many in the 1990s, was made with the intentions of an immediate championship.
However, the move did not provide a championship. Rincon had limited success with the Tribe and was never the dominant set up man that Assenmacher had been just a few seasons prior. In his three and a half seasons Rincon had strong seasons in 1999 and 2001, recording an ERA in each season below 3.00, but the Indians made it back to the World Series. He suffered from arm problems and spent much of the season on the disabled list in 2000. With the Tribe not contending in 2002, he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for Marshall McDougall. McDougall never played in a major league game with Cleveland.
Meanwhile, given the opportunity to play every day, Giles thrived in Pittsburgh, becoming a cornerstone of their team from 1999-2003. Giles hit 35 home runs or more and never hit less than .298 for the Bucos from 99-02. He was traded to San Diego at the 2003 trade deadline, where he played until the end of his career in 2009. Giles retired a .291 lifetime hitter and hit 287 home runs.
Rincon pitched in the Oakland bullpen until 2005, before making brief appearances with St. Louis and the New York Mets. Rincon retired from major league baseball in 2008, with a 21-24 career record and 443 innings pitched in 565 games.