Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #43 Rick Sutcliffe

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 Rick Sutcliffe.

By Mike Brandyberry

Some trades work out for everyone and that is the story of the career of Rick Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe, originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, won the 1979 National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Dodgers, going 17-10 with a 3.46 ERA. However, the next two seasons he dangled in the bullpen and was dealt to the Cleveland Indians after the 1981 season. After leaving the sun of the west coast for the shores of Lake Erie, Sutcliffe found his place as a starting pitcher.

Placed into the Tribe’s starting rotation the right-handed pitcher thrived, going 14-8 with a miniscule 2.96 ERA in 1982. Wearing #43 with the Tribe, he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. The next season, he would go 17-11 and would represent the Tribe at the All-Star Game. However, in 1984 Sutcliffe struggled to stay consistent and when he was 4-5, with a 5.15 ERA on June 13, the team traded him along with George Frazier and Ron Hassey to the Chicago Cubs for Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze and Darryl Banks.

The trade worked for everyone. And for Sutcliffe, the change in scenery again worked wonders.

As a member of the Cubs, Sutcliffe caught fire going 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA and became the National League Cy Young winner. He finished fifth overall for the NL Most Valuable Player Award and pitched the Cubs into the National League Championship Series. That year he was 1-1 in the playoffs, and was a critical error by first baseman Leon Durham away from pitching the Cubs to the World Series.

Meanwhile Joe Carter emerged as a young star in Cleveland, becoming the face of the franchise for the Tribe for the second half of the 1980s. The star slugger played all three outfield positions and first base with the club and became the franchise’s first 30 home run, 30 stolen base player.

Sutcliffe remained a Cub until 1991, however he could never top his 1984 season. He did help the Cubbies win the National League East again in 1988, but couldn’t help them break their curse and reach the World Series. He was an All-Star again in 1987 and 1989 with the club. He would leave via free agency after the 1991 season and sign with the Baltimore Orioles. He won 16 games in 1992 for the Orioles before Father Time started to bring his career to a close. He won only 10 more for Baltimore in 1993 and made his last appearances in 1994 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

He wouldn’t return after the player strike in 1994 and retired with a 171-139 career record, spanning 18 seasons. Sutcliffe is currently a baseball analyst for ESPN.

Photo: Getty Images

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