Stan Belinda

Belinda’s development as one of Pittsburgh’s most promising relievers came to a crashing halt when the right-handed sidearmer surrendered the game-winning hit to Atlanta’s Francisco Cabrera in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS, sending the Pirates home early for the third consecutive season. Although he had led the NL East champions with 18 saves in 1992, Belinda’s stay in the Steel City ended midway through the 1993 season when the Pirates sent him to Kansas City for Jon Lieber and Dan Miceli.

After several uninspiring seasons with the Royals, Belinda signed with Boston in 1995 and pitched effectively as Rick Aguilera‘s setup man. But he was released after injuries ruined his 1996 season, and the only contract he was offered was a minor-league deal from the Reds. Reborn in Cincinnati, Belinda turned in a remarkable year, leading all relievers with 114 strikeouts. His 84 appearances ranked second in the National League.

But Belinda faced another, more serious setback in May 1998, when he began feeling numbness in his body. The worsening condition was diagnosed that August as the early stages of multiple sclerosis, a disease with no known cure. “[The Cabrera hit] haunted me for years,” Belinda said later, “but MS puts everything in perspective.”

Thanks to a new diet and a strict drug regimen, Belinda fought off MS symptoms and biceps tendinitis to reclaim a job in the Reds bullpen in June 1999. Although he spent most of his time as a self-described “mop-up man” (one of his two saves was earned by pitching the last three innings of a 19-run blowout) Belinda proved to be a valuable mentor for the club’s young relief corps, particularly Rookie of the Year Scott Williamson. That September, Belinda got more good news when Pirates fans named him the fourth-best reliever in club history after Kent Tekulve, ElRoy Face and Dave Giusti.

Belinda was traded to Colorado after the season as part of a package for slugger Dante Bichette, but struggled in a more prominent role with the Rockies. He was released that July and signed a short-term, minor-league deal with the Braves.