Marco Estrada's Footnote In Franchise History

As noted in Monday's Frosty Mug, Marco Estrada is one of only five pitchers in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history to start a game after pitching the day before.  He was the first player to do so in twenty-six years.  The following is a breakdown of all five occurrences in franchise history:

  • John Gelnar, 7/20/1969 (box) - 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 HR

    You might have expected the first pitcher to start on zero days rest to be a Seattle Pilot.  After all, expansion teams are a horse of a different color.  John Gelnar made his way to the Pilots via Pittsburgh and Kansas City.  He appeared in 17 games (1 start) for the Pirates in 1964 and 1967 and was purchased by the expansion Royals after the 1968 season.  He was traded with Steve Whitaker to Seattle in exchange for Lou Piniella days before the season began.  He filled a swingman role for Seattle, appearing in 39 games, starting ten, and finishing ten.  Despite pitching to a 3.31 ERA, he was only 3-10, but did pick up three newfangled saves.

    On July 18, 1969, the Pilots played a doubleheader against the Twins.  A complete game from Diego Segui in the first game limited the strain on the bullpen, but the next day saw an eighteen-inning marathon (Jim Bouton's only start for the Pilots).  Gelnar was the last man out of the pen for the Pilots and was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs in 1 1/3 innings.  Despite the ineffective outing, he was tabbed as the starter on July 20.  He responded with a solid outing, but was tagged with another loss (one of seven in a row) when the offense couldn't score a run for him.  He was relieved by Jim Bouton, resulting in the odd situation of the previous day's starter relieving a pitcher who appeared in relief the previous day.  Got all that?  After establishing his footnote in franchise history, Gelnar threw 92 1/3 innings in relief for the 1970 Brewers, but his major league career ended after only two appearances for the 1971 club.
  • Jim Lonborg, 5/13/1972 (box) - 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 0 HR

    Jim Lonborg spent only one season in Milwaukee, but that didn't stop him from making this list.  The 1967 Cy Young Award winner was traded with Ken Brett and George Scott from Boston for Tommy Harper (among others on both sides).  He put up a shiny 2.83 ERA over 223 innings for the Crew, leading the club in both categories.  He also paced the team with 14 wins against 12 losses.

    On May 12, the Brewers played another marathon game against the Twins.  Jim Colborn picked up the win with seven scoreless innings in relief and Lonborg locked down his first career save (he would be retroactively credited with two in 1966) by blanking the Twinkies in the bottom of the 22nd.  Despite having used only four other relievers in the previous day's game, the team picked Lonborg to start on May 13.  Lonborg responded with a short start, lasting only two batters into the fifth inning before hitting the showers.  It was a bad time for a short start, as that day's game would also go extra innings.  Jim Slaton earned the loss by blowing a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 15th.  As mentioned, Lonborg put up some pretty numbers for the 1972 Brewers.  What did he get for his trouble?  A trade (again with Ken Brett) out of town after the season.
  • Bill Travers, 9/7/1975 (box) - 9.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR

    The first long-time Brewer to make the list, it is fitting he had the best start of the bunch.  Drafted in by the Brewers in the 6th round in 1970, Travers worked his way through the Brewers system before debuting as a reliever in 1974.  In 1975, he was used mainly as a starter, coming out of the bullpen only five times in twenty-eight games.

    By the time September 6 rolled around, the Brewers were playing for the ninth consecutive day and had allowed more than ten runs in two of three previous games.  Travers started against the Red Sox on the 6th and gave up six runs in only 1 2/3 innings of work.  The rest of the game was no better as five relievers combined to give up fourteen more runs.  A doubleheader the next day only made the situation worse.  Apparently fresh after his short start the day before, Travers started game two of the doubleheader and saved the bullpen with a complete game three-hitter.  He would remain in Milwaukee through 1980, going 65-67 with a 3.99 ERA in 191 games (157 starts).  A free agent, he signed with the California angels before 1981 but only made 14 mostly ineffective appearances in the majors before his career ended in 1983.

  • Pete Ladd, 6/4/1984 (box) - 4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 HR

    Perhaps best known among Brewers fans as Rollie Fingers' replacement at the end of 1982 and in the postseason, righthander Pete Ladd made only one start in his career.  We'll get to that start, but first you must know Ladd was drafted by the Red Sox in the 25th of the 1977 amateur draft.  In 1979, he was traded to the Houston Astros in exchange for Bob Watson, who had scored major league baseball's one-millionth run in 1975.  After the 1981 campaign, he was traded to the Brewers in exchange for Rickey Keeton.  As mentioned, Ladd filled in for Rollie Fingers in late 1982 and picked up 25 saves in 1983.  When Fingers returned in 1984, Ladd became just another reliever and struggled with the transition.

    The Brewers were not particularly victimized by short starts in the run up to June 4, but a Mike Caldwell injury left the rotation short-handed nonetheless.  A short start by Moose Haas on the third further limited the team's options.  Though he had blown the game and picked up the loss on May 3, Ladd was tabbed as the starter on May 4 in Baltimore.  It was his first and only career start and the results were as expected: five runs in four innings and another loss.  The start was part of a nightmare week that saw him allow fifteen runs in only 9 1/3 innings, ballooning his season ERA to 7.78 over 37 frames.  He was better over the rest of the season, but could only lower his ERA to 5.24 to go along with a 4-9 record and 3 saves.  He spent one more season in Milwaukee before signing with Seattle.  He spent one season with the Mariners before his career ended. 
  • Marco Estrada, 5/23/2010 (box) - 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 HR

    I'll wager we are all familiar with the circumstances that led to Marco Estrada starting last Sunday.  Selected by the Washington Nationals in the 6th round of the 2005 draft, he had major league cups of coffee in 2008 and 2009.  The Brewers claimed him off waivers in February 2010.  Seven good starts in AAA earned him a spot in the injury-riddled Brewers bullpen.

    In the twelve-inning game last Saturday, he allowed two runs while recording just one out.  When Sunday's probable starter Manny Parra was called on for the final two innings, the Brewers had to scramble for a starter.  Estrada was tabbed and the rest is history.  Estrada pitched as well as could be expected and Manny Parra came on for the win after losing the day before.  It's unclear what the future holds for Marco Estrada, but for now he's written a footnote for himself in franchise history.

Given that he was the first Brewers pitchers in 26 years to pull it off, you may be surprised that Estrada's "feat" occurs once every couple seasons.  Here are the pitchers to start on zero days rest since the beginning of the 2000 season:

  • Jeff Bennett (Braves) - 4/3/2008
  • Elizardo Ramirez (Reds) - 8/12/2006
  • Kyle Lohse (Twins) - 10/3/2004
  • Dan Wheeler (Mets) - 4/8/2004
  • Aaron Myette (Rangers) - 9/4/2002
  • Al Levine (Angels) - 5/10/2001
  • Ismael Valdez (Dodgers) - 8/16/2000
  • Steve Sparks (Tigers) - 7/27/2000
  • Tim Wakefield (Red Sox) - 5/11/2000
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