Eephus Has Left the Building
August 17th, 2011 by slangon

After making his rookie debut 13 years ago, and throwing his last pitch for a Major League team 4 years ago, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is calling it a career.

Everybody knows that the majority of El Duque’s success came as a member of those unstoppable Yankees teams of the late 90’s and with the 2005 Champion White Sox, but I for one will fondly (at least mostly fondly) remember his time in Queens. I had liked him from his Yankees days mostly because of his high leg kick and his use of the aforementioned eephus pitch, which entertains me greatly. Before he even threw a pitch for the Mets in 2006, I was already in love with the trade since it got Jorge Julio off the team. It certainly didn’t hurt that Orlando pitched pretty well for us that year.

Of course, like many before him and many after him, his time on the Mets was marred by injury. He was slated to start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, but tore a muscle in his calf jogging in the outfield the day before. Fortunately for the Mets, John Maine filled in pretty admirably for a guy who to that point had only made 24 starts in the Majors, never mind starting a Game 1 of a playoff series.

Encouraged by his mostly successful performance in 2006, the Mets resigned him for the 2007 season, but again he was hampered by injuries that limited him to just 24 starts that year. When he was on the mound, though, he was pretty damn good. He went 9-5 that season with a 3.72 ERA. He even stole 2 bases and drove in 3 runs while posting a gaudy .167/.167/.208 offensive stat line.

El Duque suffered another setback when he was forced to undergo surgery after the 2007 season to repair a toe injury which led to a lengthy rehab stint which led to another season ending surgery. He became a free agent after the 2008 season.

After that, he landed a couple of minor league deals with the Rangers and Nationals but never made it back to the Major Leagues. Although he expressed interest in trying yet another comeback this year, he’s apparently seen the writing on the wall. He calls it quits with a lifetime 90-65 record, 4.13 ERA and 1086 strikeouts. He also has 4 World Series rings and was named MVP of the 1999 ALCS. Not too shabby, sir and good luck to you.

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