Tough to steal against, Portugal’s time with the Twins was distinguished only by a 13-strikeout, five-hit 2-1 loss to Texas on September 21, 1986. Gradually moving into a relief role, he was 7-1 with a 2.75 ERA a set-up and middle reliever for the 1989 Astros, but returned to the rotation the following year and over the next four seasons averaged eleven wins a season, topping out with career campaign (18-4, 2.77) for Houston in 1993.
Buoyed by his success, Portugal inked a free-agent deal with the Giants after the season but despite solid pitching was sent to Cincinnati as part of a deal for Deion Sanders in July 1995. “I was misled to believe this organization was committed to winning,” Portugal told the press. “That’s a blatant lie.”
Even though Portugal pitched reliably for the Reds, he drew fire from team owner Marge Schott in a 1996 Sports Illustrated article. “Three million dollars, and he’s not worth a [darn],” Schott was quoted as saying. Portugal fired back: “Tell her it’s $4 million.”
Portugal moved on to the Phillies, turning in a 10-5 campaign in 1998 after an injury-plagued 1997, but struggled with the Red Sox in 1999. Distracted by custody issues arising from a divorce, he briefly went AWOL that June, prompting speculation that he was considering retirement. He returned within a week, but continued to pitch poorly and was released three months later — just two weeks before postseason play began.
Portugal signed with Cincinnati the following January — ironically, on the same day that Deion Sanders rejoined the team. He pitched well that spring, and in fact won a spot in the rotation as the club’s fifth starter. But a few days after the Reds’ announcement, he was unceremoniously released to make room for rookie Rob Bell. Disappointed, Portugal called it quits.