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Zulgad: Colon signing sparks memories of (11) Twins retread pitchers from years past

Editor’s note: This clumn originally published after the Twins announced the Bartolo Colon signing. With the reports that he’ll start Tuesday for the Twins, we decided the post was worth re-sharing.

The Twins’ move to sign 44-year-old starter Bartolo Colon on Friday carried on a long tradition of this franchise signing once prominent names turned journeyman in hopes of getting one last batch of competent outings.

Shortly after the Colon news broke on Friday, I put a question on Twitter for Twins fans to chime in with some of their favorite moves when it came to the organization bringing in a player near the end of his career.

The replies brought back a flood of memories. My initial plan was to do a top 10 list of these players. However, it soon became clear that pitchers could make up their own top 10 list. I ended up with 11.

Here is the list: (If there are any oversights, and I’m sure there are, feel free to add them in the comments section.)

John Candelaria, LHP, joined Twins in age 36 season: Signed as a free agent in February 1990, “The Candy Man” went 7-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 34 games and one start before being traded to Toronto for infielder Nelson Liriano and outfielder Pedro Munoz in July 1990. Candelaria spent 1991 and 1992 with the Dodgers before finishing his 19-year career (at age 39) where it began, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1993.

Steve Carlton, LHP, joined Twins in age 42 season: The Twins acquired “Lefty” for a player to be named on July 31, 1987. He went 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA in nine games and seven starts. The Twins retained Carlton as a free agent in 1988 and he went 0-1 with a 16.76 ERA in four games (one start) before being let go in late April. That put an end to his 24-year Hall of Fame career.

Livan Hernandez, RHP, joined Twins in age 33 season: We give you Hernandez’s age knowing full well that many have questioned if we actually ever knew his real year of birth. He was signed as a free agent by the Twins in February 2008 and went 10-8 with a 5.48 ERA in 23 starts before being selected off waivers by Colorado in August of that season. He would go on to pitch for four more teams before retiring after his age 37 season in 2012. He spent 17 years in the big leagues.

Charlie Lea, RHP, joined Twins in age 31 season: Signed as a free agent in February 1988 after being in Montreal for his first six years, Lea went 7-7 with a 4.85 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) in the final season of his big-league career.

Jason Marquis, RHP,  joined Twins in age 33 season: Signed as a free agent in December 2011, Marquis went 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA in seven starts before being let go by the Twins in late May of 2012 and signing with the San Diego Padres. He ended his 15-year career with the Cincinnati Reds at age 36 in 2015.

Terry Mulholland, LHP, joined Twins in age 41 season: Purchased on April 2, 2004, Mulholland went 5-8 with a 5.18 ERA in 39 games and 15 starts that season and then went 0-2 with a 4.27 ERA in 49 games in 2005 before signing with Arizona as a free agent. He retired after 20 years in the big leagues (at age 43) after only five games with the Diamondbacks in 2006.

Joe Niekro, RHP, joined Twins in age 42 season:  Acquired on June 7, 1987 from the New York Yankees for catcher Mark Salas, the knuckleballer went 4-9 with a 6.26 ERA in 19 games and 18 starts in the Twins’ World Championship season. He pitched two innings in relief in the 1987 World Series. Niekro finished his 22-year career by going 1-1 with a 10.03 ERA in five games and two starts with the Twins before being released on May 4, 1988. Niekro’s most famous moment as a Twin came on Aug. 3, 1987 in Anaheim, Calif., when Niekro came under suspicion from the umpires and, as he emptied out his pockets, an emery board and a piece of sandpaper flew out of his pocket. That earned Niekro a 10-game suspension.

Jesse Orosco LHP, joined Twins in age 46 season: Originally traded to the New York Mets by the Twins in 1979 as part of the Jerry Koosman deal, the Twins re-acquired Orosco from the Yankees for a player to be named on Aug. 31, 2003. Orosco went 1-1 with a 5.79ERA in eight games for the Twins during a season in which he also pitched for San Diego. Minnesota was the last stop for Orosco in his 24-year career.

Ramon Ortiz, RHP, joined Twins in age 34 season: Signed as a free agent in January 2007, Ortiz went 4-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 28 games and 10 starts before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for infielder Matt Macri in August 2007. Ortiz did not pitch in 2008 or 2009 but returned in 2010 with the Dodgers. He pitched for the Cubs in 2011 and Blue Jays in 2013 before calling it quits at age 40 after 12 big-league seasons.

Sidney Ponson, RHP, joined Twins in age 30 season: Signed as a free agent in January 2007 and went 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA in seven starts before being released in May. He split 2008 between the Rangers and Yankees before concluding his big-league career in 2009 with the Royals at age 32.

Shane Rawley, LHP, joined Twins in age 33 season: Acquired on Oct. 24, 1988 from the Phillies, with cash, for outfielder Eric Bullock, second baseman Tom Herr and catcher Tom Nieto. Rawley went 5-12 with a 5.21 ERA in 27 games and 25 starts for the Twins in 1989. That was the last season of his 12-year career that began in 1978 with Seattle.

  • linus

    You could add Jack Morris to this list. He was 36 and coming off two consecutive seasons with an ERA over 4.5.

    • Bud Viking

      Jack Morris belongs in the hall of fame. He won the WS with Toronto in 92. Great analyst too.

      • linus

        I’m not disagreeing, but he was past his prime when he arrived with the Twins, which makes his one season in Minnesota even more special.

        • Tom Pierson

          HE also won the World Series in ’91!!

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  • Mike Link

    This list just ignites my enthusiasm for bringing an out of shape 44 year old slow pitch former star into the Twins fold. I keep thinking this is a joke, but then I see people actually asking if he can help the Twins this year. I answer NO – perhaps if we signed, traded or called up a good pitcher it would help. This just got them some headlines and it is not worth it. If you want to tell me Falvey and LaVine are pitching geniuses I want to change this list to the pitchers they signed this year – the list is not pretty and this is the exclamation mark.


    How about actually try to win what a joke! It is a miracle that after today they will be 45-43 with 2 starting pitchers 1 who started the year in Triple A!


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