Ted Higuera

In 1983, Milwaukee Brewers scout Roy Poitevint discovered a pitcher named Ted Higuera from Juarez of the Mexican League. After the Brewers bought his contract from the team, stories of the great lefty who had led his league in wins, complete games, innings pitched, and strikeouts began to trickle into the United States. But no matter how flattering the stories, nobody expected Higuera to pitch as well as he did in his first season for the Brewers. Higuera ended up posting the best rookie record in Milwaukee history (15-8) and finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting in 1985.

The following season, Higuera became Milwaukee’s first 20-game winner of the 1980s (and the first Mexican-born 20-game winner, beating Fernando Valenzuela by a matter of days) and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. His 240 strikeouts in 1987 were the most by any pitcher in the city’s history, surpassing Tony Cloninger‘s 211 with the 1965 Braves. Higuera was a workhorse through 1988, averaging 17 wins and just over 237 innings a year.

But in 1989, Higuera fell victim to injuries and wouldn’t regain his mid-80’s form again. In January 1989 he underwent surgery for a herniated disc and missed the first three weeks of the season. When he returned, he struggled for a month before notching his first win, and was then plagued by other injuries to his ankle and chest. He ended the season with 135 1/3 innings pitched and hoped to start the next year with a clean, healthy slate.

Higuera bounced back and gave the Brew Crew 170 innings and 11 wins in 1990. But after pitching just seven games in the majors in 1991, the Mexican hurler went down again, this time with a tear in his rotator cuff. He underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery in the offseason and after missing the entire ’92 season. The next two seasons were roughly the same — Higuera on the sidelines nursing his arm and shoulder. When he was healthy, he was relegated to spot-starting duties.

After a thoroughly unimpressive 1994, in which Higuera went 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA, the Brewers opted not to re-sign him. The Mexican lefty inked a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres, who were looking to expand their fan base to the south. When he failed to impress in spring training, San Diego released him.