The first pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the June 1983 draft, the 6’5″ Plesac was used exclusively as a starter in the minors but became one of the American League‘s premier relievers after his arrival in 1986. Using a 95-mph fastball, devastating slider, and remarkable control, he logged a 10-7 mark with 14 saves as a rookie. Though he injured his left elbow shagging flies in August 1987, he finished with 23 saves.
Plesac was knocked out again in August 1988, this time with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder, but set a Brewers record for saves in a season by a lefthander, with 30. Firmly entrenched as Milwaukee’s closer, he was extremely consistent between 1988 and 1991, saving between 23 and 33 games each season.
Near the end of the 1991 campaign, the Brewers elected to try Plesac as a starter. The experiment ended after four starts in 1992 that resulted in an ERA of 5.14, and Plesac was moved back to the pen. He regained his effectiveness there, posting a 2.17 ERA as a reliever, including 1.55 in the second half.
Having lost the closer job in 1992 to the tandem of Mike Fetters and Doug Henry, Plesac realized his days as a stopper were over and signed with the Chicago Cubs on December 8, 1992. He struggled to maintain consistency as a Cub, posting an ERA of over 4.50 in both of his years there. He left to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 8, 1994.
Plesac was relatively effective for the Pirates and even closed some games in 1996. But later that season, he was traded in a monster nine-player deal that sent him, Carlos Garcia, and Orlando Merced to the Toronto Blue Jays for six prospects, including Brandon Cromer and Jose Silva. Acquired to help the Jays into the playoffs, Plesac was solid in 1997 and ’98, posting excellent strikeout numbers while mostly being utilized against left-handed batters. But he was unable to help Toronto overtake either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
In one of the more lopsided trades in the ’90’s, the Jays shipped an aging Plesac to the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 12, 1999 in exchange for infielder Tony Batista and right-handed reliever John Frascatore. Plesac pitched adequately for the D’Backs, but Batista bashed a combined 72 home runs between the ’99 and 2000 seasons. Plesac returned to the Blue Jays for the 2001 season, signing a one-year deal in December 2000.