Do You Remember: Mike Grace

Posted: April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

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In the mid-1990s, the Philadelphia Phillies were a franchise without a direction. They were just coming off a miracle National League pennant run in 1993, but, did not have the young players to develop in order to prolong success. Following that pennant, Philadelphia did not enjoy a winning season until 2001. Lost in the shuffle were many players who enjoyed sporadic success as the team endured prolonged failure.

One such player was Mike Grace. A 10th round pick in the 1991 draft out of Bradley University, Grace made his MLB debut in 1995 with the Phillies. That coming after he wowed in the minor leagues that season, finishing 15-6, 3.34 in 26 starts between Reading and Scranton/Wilkes Barre. That year, Grace appeared in two games for the Phillies, including seven shutout innings in Los Angeles against the Western Division champion Dodgers.

The following season, Grace made the starting rotation out of spring training. In his first start of 1996, the right-hander established himself as a Phillies’ regular. At home against Colorado, Grace tossed eight superb innings, surrendering just five hits and one run whilst striking out three to earn his second career victory by the final score of 3-1. By the end of April, Grace was 4-0, 3.12 in five starts.

On May 12th, 1996, Grace put together the finest performance of his career, out-dueling defending champion Atlanta and future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. His complete game, four hit shutout moved his record to 6-0, 2.34 that season. It also revved the engines of the Philadelphia hype-machine. After all, this was a city without a champion for thirteen years (and one that would not see another for over a decade more). Following that win, Philadelphia sat at 18-17, six games back of first place Montreal.

However, as is the case with many young pitchers, Grace felt the pain of overuse. In a 2-0 shutout on May 2nd, Jim Fregosi left Grace in for eight innings and 128 pitches. At just 26-years old, Grace’s arm gave in. After four more starts (and a 1-2, 6.45 mark over that span), Grace was lost for the season with an elbow injury.

Grace would not return to Philadelphia until the end of August, 1997. In his second start back, the Illinois native tossed a complete game shutout of the defending world champion New York Yankees, needing only 84 pitches to best the Bronx Bombers on September 2nd. That would be the last complete game that Grace would throw in the major leagues. After starting the following season 4-7, 5.66, Grace would be moved to Philadelphia’s bullpen. A brutal 1999 season that saw Grace finish with a 7.69 ERA would be the end of his five year major league career.

Grace would become a free agent at the turn of the millennium  He would spend two more seasons in affiliated baseball: 2000 with the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA club in Rochester and 2001 with the Dodgers’ AA team in Chattanooga. However, the once promising young pitcher would never reacquire his once batter-baffling arsenal, and retired following the 2001 season.

Overall, Mike Grace finished his MLB career 16-16 with a 4.96 ERA. His once fruitful future having devolved into nothing more than a promising past. It is the tale with many young pitchers, and an example as to why the Washington Nationals and many other teams have begun treating their youngsters with caution.

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