It took Bottenfield six seasons to win his first 18 games in the majors, but just six months in 1999 to win his next 18. Yet his emergence from obscurity to claim the top spot in the Cardinals’ rotation didn’t end Bottenfield’s nomadic tour of the major leagues. The following spring the Cardinals dealt him to Anaheim, and by the end of the year he was back in the NL with the Phillies.
Nicknamed “Hoss” for his burly physique, Bottenfield struggled for years to win a regular spot on a major-league roster. Inconsistent results in the Expos’ minor-league system (including a 3-17 record with Double-A Jacksonville in 1989) did not make him the shining star of the organization, but a solid performance in Triple-A in 1992 earned him a call-up late in the season. A year later, he made the first of many uniform changes when he was traded to Colorado for Butch Henry in July 1993.
Bottenfield left Denver after refusing a minor-league assignment in 1994, and spent the next five seasons shuttling between a number of major- and minor-league teams for three different organizations. He nearly called it quits when Detroit’s offer of a major-league spot in 1995 never materialized (his first uniform at Triple-A Toledo read “Buttonfield”) but his agent convinced him to stay the course.
The tutelage of Tigers pitching instructor Rick Adair that year would prove instrumental in Bottenfield’s return to the majors. The following season, he was signed by the Cubs, who tried to convert him into a closer at Triple-A Iowa. That experiment never worked at the major-league level, but Bottenfield pitched well as a setup man in Chicago before a contract dispute drove him to the Cardinals, where he turned in a 4-6 record with a 4.44 ERA as a swingman in 1998.
Except for 1994, when he posted 3-1 record in limited duty with the Rockies, Bottenfield had yet to enjoy a winning season in the majors. But during spring training in 1999, Bottenfield insisted he could win 15 games as a starter. He got his chance when injuries decimated the St. Louis pitching corps, and made good on his promise with 13 wins in the first half of the season and an All-Star appearance.
Bottenfield’s 18-7 performance had been rewarded with a $4 million contract and raves from Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, but as St. Louis’ injured starters returned the following spring he was dangled as trade bait. A week before the season began, Bottenfield and second baseman Adam Kennedy were dealt to Anaheim for centerfielder Jim Edmonds. He was unable to return to his 1999 form with the Angels, and at the trading deadline, he was sent to Philadelphia for outfielder Ron Gant. Bottenfield continued to struggle, going 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. Bottenfield also seemed to become prone to injuries, making only 8 starts after being traded.
Bottenfield became a free agent after the season and signed a one-year contract with the Houston Astros in January. In Houston, Bottenfield continued his slide by posting a 2-5 record and a 6.40 ERA, pitching only 52 innings before undergoing season-ending surgery on his shoulder on August 22.