Mike Timlin turns 56 today.
Timlin will always have a special place in my heart as he not only got the final out in the Jays’ first World Series, he also made the assist on the final play, fielding Otis Nixon’s bunt single attempt and throwing to Joe Carter at first just in time to get Nixon. And for that, he gets to a place as one of my favourite players.
The Blue Jays drafted Timlin in the 5th round of the 1987 amateur draft out of Southwestern University. In Bill James’s words, he was your basic two-pitch reliever throwing a two-seam sinking fastball and a slider or a great slider.
In 1991 Mike appeared in 63 games, starting 3 of them. He finished the season 11-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 3 saves. In 108.1 innings, he gave up 94 hits and 50 walks, 6 home runs, and struck out 85. His wins, innings pitched, and strikeout numbers are career highs. He was tied for the league lead in relief victories and got two third-place votes for Rookie of the Year that season to finish 6th in the voting. To let you know how long ago that was, Chuck Knoblauch was the Rookie of the Year. The Jays made the playoffs that season and lost to the Twins in 5 games. Timlin appeared in 4 of the games taking the loss in game 3.
1992 was the season noted above that the Jays won their first World Series. Timlin was on the DL at the start of the season, after off-season elbow surgery, rehabbed in the minors until June 12th, and then was optioned to the minors again July 31st. He didn’t have a great season, only getting into 26 games, finishing 0-2, with a 4.12 ERA. However, he pitched in two games in the ALCS and two games in the World Series, getting a save in the game mentioned above.
Timlin was an essential part of our pen, appearing in 54 games with a 4-2 record in our second World Series season. He had 1 save with a 4.69 ERA. In 55.2 innings, allowing 63 hits, walked 27, and gave up 7 homers, so Timlin wasn’t impressive. He pitched in 1 game in the ALCS against the White Sox and 2 scoreless appearances in the World Series win over the Phillies.
He didn’t have a great season in 1994, making only 34 appearances with a 5.18 ERA, and went on the DL on May 27th with a sprained AC joint. After the All-Star break, he had a 2.38 ERA. In 1995 he had more injury troubles. He only gave up one home run all season, a grand slam on June 21st, and then went on the DL to have bone chips removed from his elbow the next day. He only allowed one earned run after returning from the DL on August 18th.
In 1996 he became our closer getting a career-high 31 saves in 38 opportunities. He led the club with 59 appearances and had a 3.65 ERA and a 1-6 record. In 56.2 innings, he allowed 47 hits, 18 walks, and 4 homers while striking out 52. But it wasn’t a good season for the team. We finished 74 and 88.
In 1997 Timlin made 38 appearances and was 3-2 with 9 saves and a 2.87 ERA when the Jays traded him to the Seattle Mariners with Paul Spoljaric for Jose Cruz, Jr, July 31st. The Mariners, in a pennant race, needed bullpen help and were willing to trade Cruz their first-round pick in the 1995 amateur draft. It was an excellent trade for the Jays, as you’d imagine it would be when you trade two middle reliever types for a young power-hitting outfielder. The Mariners won their division, and Timlin did a nice job for them for the next season and a half before leaving as a free agent after the 1998 season.
After that, Mike played for the Orioles, Cardinals, Phillies, and the Red Sox, winning two more World Series rings. Timlin had 18 years in the majors, and he appeared in 1058 games, 8th on the all-time list. In 2007 he was awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for something, I’m not sure what. It says, ‘Given to the player who best exemplifies his character and integrity both on and off the field.’ I suppose it wouldn’t be nice to note that Pete Rose once won the bastion of integrity award, as well as Mark McGwire.
Happy Birthday, Mike. I hope you have a good one.