Dave Veres

After five years of middle relief and setup work, Veres established himself as a closer with the Colorado Rockies in 1999. Escaping the thin air and inflated ERAs of Coors Field, he was traded to St. Louis before the 2000 season and served as the bullpen ace for back-to-back Cardinals playoff qualifiers.

Employing a darting split-fingered fastball, Veres reached the big leagues with Houston in 1994. In his second season the right-hander won five games with a 2.26 ERA in 72 appearances, and led the NL with 103 1/3 relief innings. Veres continued to be a workhorse in Montreal, where he wound up after the Astros traded him and catcher Raul Chavez to the Expos for infielder Sean Berry in December 1995. In two seasons with Montreal he totaled eight wins and five saves in 121 games.

Another offseason trade, this time for outfielder Terry Jones, sent Veres to Colorado in December 1997. In his first season with the Rockies he led the bullpen staff in innings (76 1/3), ERA (2.83) and strikeouts (74). He added eight saves in 13 chances, taking over as the closer in September.

Veres established a club record with 31 saves in 1999, but saw his ERA balloon to 5.14. In a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, he pitched to a sparkling 2.25 mark in 35 2/3 innings on the road, but struggled mightily in the hitters paradise of Coors Field, posting a 7.40 ERA in 41 1/3 innings on his home turf.

In November 1999, the Rockies dealt Veres and fellow Coors Field casualty Darryl Kile to St. Louis, along with pitcher Luther Hackman, in exchange for hurlers Manny Aybar, Jose Jimenez and Rick Croushore, and infielder Brent Butler. With Veres (29 saves) and Kile (20 wins) leading the Cardinals’ pitching staff makeover, St. Louis streaked to the 2000 NL Central title and a berth in the National League Championship Series.

Veres (whose name is pronouced “VEERZ”) remained the club’s primary closer in 2001, although fellow relievers Steve Kline and Gene Stechschulte also worked in save situations.