Bobby Witt

A wild right-handed starter, Witt pitched for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team and was the third player chosen in the nation in the 1985 free-agent draft. He made his ML debut with Texas in 1986 after pitching only 35 innings in the minors. In his first two seasons the raw flamethrower led the AL in both strikeouts per nine innings (9.93 and 10.07) and walks (143 and 140), and as a rookie uncorked a league-high 22 wild pitches. He was 19-19 over the two seasons, but his ERA was above 5.00, and he completed only one of his 56 starts.

In 1988 Witt started horribly, and was 0-5, 7.68 when he was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City in early May. When he returned in July, however, he was a different pitcher, completing his first nine starts and 13 overall, walking “only” 66 batters in 138 innings, and posting a 2.93 ERA. He later tied Rangers records for most strikeouts in a game with 14 (7/6/86) and most walks in a game with nine (4/24/87).

Witt’s best season came in 1990, when he notched 17 wins (including 12 straight from late June to early September), finished with a 3.36 ERA and ranked second in the AL to teammate Nolan Ryan with 221 strikeouts.

After an injury-plagued 1991 season, he was traded in August 1992, along with pitcher Jeff Russell and outfielder Ruben Sierra, to Oakland in exchange for slugger Jose Canseco. Witt turned into the workhorse of the A’s staff, making 57 starts in 1993 and 1994 while leading the club with 10 complete games.

Following a brief stint with the Marlins, Witt was dealt back to Texas on August 8, 1995 for outfielder Scott Podsednik and pitcher Wilson Heredia. Despite high ERAs (5.41 and 4.82) the next two seasons, Witt took advantage of the powerful Rangers offense to claim 28 wins against 24 losses.

Witt also did some heavy hitting of his own, taking Dodgers hurler Ismael Valdes deep in an interleague game on June 30, 1997 for the first home run by an American League pitcher since the 1973 advent of the designated hitter. The bat he used was sent to the Hall of Fame.

In 1999 Witt won a spot in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays‘ starting rotation after arriving at camp as a non-roster invitee. Although he won just seven games with a 5.84 ERA, his durability proved a major asset to the Devil Rays. The only member of the rotation who didn’t spend time on the disabled list, Witt led the team with 32 starts, and also tossed the 10th and 11th shutouts of his career.

His career looked to be over when the Cleveland Indians released him in May 2000 after just seven appearances. The next season though, Witt resurrected himself as reliever and spot starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks, winning four games in 12 outings.