A hard-throwing reliever, Timlin split his career between closing and setup duties. After 10 years in the American League, he was dealt to St. Louis at the 2000 trading deadline to fortify the Cardinals bullpen for the stretch run.
As a Blue Jays rookie in 1991, Timlin made the only three starts of his career. Used 60 times out of the bullpen, he tied Detroit’s Mike Henneman for the AL lead with 10 relief wins. The right-hander’s sinking, mid-90s fastball and biting slider didn’t rack up huge strikeout totals, but they kept the ball in the park and induced scores of ground balls for the Jays’ slick-fielding infielders to gobble up.
With Toronto, Timlin found his path to the closer’s job blocked by All-Stars Duane Ward and Tom Henke. He trumped his bullpen mentors during the 1992 World Series, however, when he picked up the title-clinching save in Game Six. Timlin threw out speedy Otis Nixon trying to beat out an infield hit for the final out of the series, marking the first time a team from outside the United States had won the Fall Classic.
Timlin finally got his chance to close full-time for the Blue Jays in 1996, when he saved 31 games in 38 chances. In July 1997, though, Toronto sent Timlin and southpaw Paul Spoljaric to Seattle in exchange for rookie power-hitter Jose Cruz Jr. Timlin pitched well late in the season for the Mariners, but was roughed up by the Orioles during Seattle’s four-game loss to Baltimore in the Division Series.
After recording 18 saves in 19 chances for the Mariners during the second half of the 1998 season, Timlin drew interest on the free-agent market. He turned down an offer from the defending World Champion New York Yankees in favor of a four-year $16 deal from Baltimore. He chose the Orioles in large part, he said, because they were the only team willing to promise him the closer’s job.
Timlin pitched erratically in his first months with Baltimore in 1999, and manager Ray Miller temporarily demoted him to a setup role after he allowed an eighth-inning grand slam to Seattle catcher Tom Lampkin in a 4-2 Orioles loss on June 25th. After blowing eight save chances in the first half, he duplicated his second half performance from 1998, recording 18 saves in 19 tries after the All-Star break for the second straight year.
For the second time in three seasons Timlin found himself on the move near the trading deadline when Baltimore dealt him to the Cardinals for right-hander Mark Nussbeck and outfielder Chris Richard on July 29, 2000. Used mainly as a setup man to closer Dave Veres, Timlin posted a 3-1 record with one save and a 3.34 ERA in 25 games for St. Louis. He suffered a hard-luck loss in Game Two of the NLCS when the Mets scored an unearned run off him in the top of the ninth.
Timlin continued his effective setup work for the Cardinals in 2001, notching four wins and three saves in 67 appearances.