Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Barely Knew Ya...Cliff Speck

I can't remember what the percentage is for players who are drafted and make it to The Show, but for first-round picks I remember the stats being somewhere around 65 percent. And while I don't think I have ever heard what the average number of years those first-round picks spend in the minors, I would like to think that it's maybe four or five years, tops. So I'm kind of surprised to read that one former 1st rounder didn't make it until his thirteenth season. Who says 13 is an unlucky number?

Cliff Speck, a high-school senior from Portland, Oregon, was the 17th overall pick in the 1974 amateur draft, going to the New York Mets. That same summer, another Portland native, Dale Murphy, was selected in the first round as well- going to the Braves. The two played against each other their first summer of pro ball, in the Appy League, and didn't see each other again until a meeting during Spring Training, 1984, when Speck was trying to make the Orioles roster. His attempt to make the Orioles roster ended up like every other one up to that point in his career- with a trip back to the minors.

Speck signed with Atlanta after toiling in the minors for twelve seasons. In July of 1986, the Braves recalled Cliff from AAA Richmond, where he was 8-5 with career bests in both ERA (2.77)  and WHIP (1.238). The former flame-thrower made his MLB debut on July 30th in Houston, where he pitched one inning in relief and struck out one batter. His next appearance came on August 5th, against the Padres, and being named the last-minute starter for a sick Zane Smith. Cliff pitched a solid 5.2 innings to get the win against the Friars.

The following season was yet another tough one for Speck, when he went a combined 2-10 with a 5.40 ERA for the Braves and Yankees AAA teams.  After that disappointing season, Cliff would spend only one more year on the mound- pitching in Columbus during the 1988 season.

First Appearance for Braves: July 30, 1986 vs. Houston
Final Appearance for Braves: September 25, 1986 vs. Cincinnati
Stats for Atlanta: 13 games, 28.1 IP, 15BB , 21K,  4.13 ERA,  1.412 WHIP

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