Pedro Astacio

Astacio had pitched just three shutouts in three-and-a-half minor-league seasons when he was summoned to the Dodgers to start the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia on July 3, 1992. He promptly shut down the Phillies with a complete-game three-hit shutout in Chavez Ravine, striking out ten — a new franchise rookie record. Astacio tossed another three shutouts in his next ten starts to finish the year with a 1.98 ERA.

To make room for Astacio in the rotation, the Dodgers released veteran Bob Ojeda in the off-season; Pedro responded with a strong showing (14-9, 3.57) in ’93, his first full major-league season. The lowest-paid pitcher on the staff, he was the only Dodger starter with a winning record.

Early in his career, Astacio became known around the league for unabashed emotional outbursts on the mound, but seemed to calm down as his impressive run of success tailed off. Astacio’s best pitches were a sinking fastball and a devastating change; they seemed to lose their effectiveness in 1994, when his ERA rose to 4.29, due mostly to a 6.31 ERA on the road. In 1995, he was sent to the bullpen after an inauspicious debut, but returned to the rotation in 1996 to post a 9-8 record with a 3.44 ERA — the first time his ERA had slipped below the 4.00 mark since ’93.

Lost in the crowd among a bevy of talented Dodger starters (Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, and Ramon Martinez) Astacio was dealt to Colorado for second baseman Eric Young midway through the 1997 season. As the Rockies’ de facto ace, Astacio won five of his six decisions with his new club to finish the year 12-10. In 1998, his first full season in Colorado, he went 13-14 with a 6.23 ERA (the highest in the National League) and 39 home runs (the most in the majors) but threw over 200 innings for the third consecutive year. Astacio was ejected from a game in mid-May for menacing Milwaukee pitcher Jeff Juden with his bat after a pitch hit him in the back, but Rockies manager Don Baylor grabbed the lumber from Astacio’s hands before he could reach the mound.

Astacio struck out more than 200 batters for the first time during a 1999 campaign in which he also posted career highs in wins (17) and innings pitched (232). Dubbed “mula” (Spanish for “mule”) in the Rockies’ clubhouse, he set a team record with seven complete games and another by hurling 153 pitches in a June game.

But less than a week after a sparkling mid-August start in which Astacio threw six no-hit innings, the hurler was arrested for allegedly punching his pregnant wife. Released on bail, he was roundly booed in his next appearance at Coors Field. Even worse, the INS threatened deportation after a plea bargain was reached after the season, forcing Astacio to hastily withdraw his guilty plea.

With the Rockies mired in mediocrity, Astacio’s continued success in Coors Field — he posted another winning season in 2000 — made him one of the hottest commodities as the trade deadline approached in 2001. Just before the trading period expired, he was sent to Houston for up-and-coming righty Scott Elarton

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