Kelly Gruber turns 56 today, which makes me feel old. .
Gruber was a Rule 5 pick up from the Rangers in 1983. Since we didn’t have 7 or 8 man bullpens back then, a Rule 5 pick could be hidden on the bench, you really didn’t use the full 25-man roster back then. Gruber had all of 16 at bats in 1984. It took until 1986 until he played much, playing in 87 games mostly as a defensive replacement. 1987 was the first season he had a real role on the team, taking Garth Iorg’s spot as the right-handed half of the third base platoon with Rance Mulliniks. He didn’t do well, hitting.235/.283/.399.
In 1988 he took over the full time third base job, when Rance became DH. Kelly was much better, hitting 278/.328/.438, with 16 home runs, 81 RBI and 23 stolen bases. 1989 was our first playoff season and Gruber was a large part of success despite a couple of trips to the DL (shades of things to come). Kelly got selected to the All-Star team and hit .290/.328/.448 with 18 homers and 73 RBI. Even his defense improved as he showed a bit more range. And on April 16th he became the first Jay to hit for the cycle. Gruber hit well in our 5 game lost to Oakland in the ALCS, with a .294 average
1990 was Gruber’s best season by far, with 31 home runs and 118 RBI, hitting .274/.330/.512 for a OPS+ of 127. He had career highs in at bats, runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI. He won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger award for best offensive third baseman and made the All-Star game, taking a walk and stealing 2 bases in two plate appearances. He also was 4th in the MVP vote. He was 6th in the AL in slugging average, 2nd in total bases and 2nd in RBI.
After that he had a couple of injury filled seasons, but he picked up a World Series ring and was part of what should have been a triple play:
After 1992 Kelly was traded to the Angels. He only played 18 games for the Angels, then injuries forced him out of the game. In total he played 10 seasons, hit .259/.307/.432 with 117 home runs. He also was a very good defensive third baseman.Kelly was blond and good looking and seemed like a fun guy, he was a fan favorite. He was a good player for a short time.
Josh Towers turns 41 today.
Towers pitched for us for 5 seasons, winning 37 and losing 42 from 2003 to 2007. His best season was 2005 when he went 13-12 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. Unfortunately the next year wasn’t quite as good, 2-10 with a 8.42 ERA. Towers, even at the best of times, gave up a lot of hits, and a good number of home runs as well, but he kept the walks down and made guys hit their way on base. In 2009 he had a couple of appearances for the Yankees. He was your basic soft thrower, throws strikes, gets hit a lot but didn’t walk anyone. Sort of very poor man’s Mark Buehrle, other than he was right-handed and less of a hit the corners of the strike zone, more of a throw it down the middle.
Mark DeRosa turns 43 today.
Mark played for us in 2013, the last season of his 16 year career. He was brought in to ‘fix the clubhouse chemistry’ and help Brett Lawrie mature. We went several seasons where we seemed to bring someone in to fix the clubhouse every year. I’m not a fan of bringing someone in thinking he’s going to fix the chemistry, unless, of course, he is also a good player. Mark hit .235/.326/.407 for us, not all that bad, in 88 games. He played more than we would have liked. but wasn’t terrible.
In his career he hit .268/.340/.412 with 100 home runs in 1241 games.
Happy Birthday to all three, I hope you each have a great one.