Mark Gubicza was a hard throwing right-hander who fired a 93-mph fastball and 90-mph slider that often cut in on batters’ hands. While wildness was his early nemesis, endurance was his larger enemy, and the 6’5″ pitcher was placed on the DL for extensive stints throughout his career. Pain in his shoulder and arm from excess strain eventually caused him to walk away from baseball just before the 1998 season.
Brought up for the 1984 season with the Kansas City Royals, Gubicza struggled with control for his first couple of years in the bigs. However, under the tutelage of Royals pitching coach Frank Funk, he began to harness his pitches, dropping a couple of miles per hour off his fastball in exchange for monster control. He soon emerged from the shadows of Bret Saberhagen to give KC one of the best pitching tandems in baseball.
Equipped with an improved changeup and slider by 1988, Gubicza became the ace of the Royals’ staff, when he went 20-8 with a 2.70 ERA. He made the All-Star game that year, and capped off an excellent season with a 3-0 two-hitter against the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics in September. Many in the American League felt he was robbed of a Gold Glove that year, after he handled 74 chances with only one error.
In 1989, Gubicza again had a respectable year, going 15-11 with a 3.04 ERA, and was selected to the All-Star game for a second time. But it was in 1989 when shoulder and arm injuries began to plague the big right-hander. The next year he went on the DL in mid-June and had surgery two months later.
The constant stress that Gubicza placed on his arm severely depleted his strength and stamina. Relying on fastballs and hard sliders to overpower his opponents caught up with him, and he spent the next three years on and off the disabled list. He only reached the 200-inning mark one more time, in 1995, when he went 12-14 while tallying an adequate 3.75 ERA. Due to injuries, this would be the only time in the 90’s he would achieve double digit wins.
Gubicza stayed with Kansas City through 1996, becoming the Royals’ last tie to their 1985 World Series team. On May 4, 1996, he notched his 1,325th strikeout, becoming the all-time Royals leader in Ks. Later that year, Paul Molitor lined a shot up the middle off his tibia; this ended his season and his tenure with the Royals, who traded him with pitcher Mike Bovee to the Anaheim Angels for Chili Davis at the end of the season.
Gubicza was limited to just two starts with the Angels in 1997 before he underwent arthroscopic surgery for his right shoulder, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. In January 1998, Gubicza signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but with pain lingering in his shoulder the veteran pitcher decided to call it quits a month later.