On April 8, 1991, Mike Timlin threw one last pitch in the SkyDome bullpen, jogged toward the infield, and climbed the mound to pitch against the Boston Red Sox. It was the eighth inning, and the Blue Jays trailed, 6-2.
Al Leiter had just jogged the mound after recording two outs in the inning, having allowed a run and left two men on base. Roger Clemens sat in the other dugout, one inning left in him. Tom Brunansky stood in the batter’s box. Timlin reared and fired the first pitch of his major league career.
Timlin would walk two over the next two innings, not allow any earned runs, and retire Jody Reed for the final out of the ninth. The game stayed 6-2. Clemens got the win.
Timlin has made that jog from the bullpen 1,050 more times since, the latest last night in the Red Sox 13-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that came into existence seven years after Timlin made his first relief appearance. No righthander has ever come on in relief than Mike Timlin. If a reliever pitched in every single game his team played, it would take him 6 ½ years to catch Timlin.
Nowadays, the outings aren’t typically that important, like last night’s three-batter, eight-inning sweep-up. He was once the guy you gave the ball to when you needed three outs; now he’s the guy you give the ball to when you want to rest the guy you want to give the ball to when you need three outs. His ERA this year is 5.96. His highest previous ERA in a season was 4.89, with Baltimore in 2000.
His recent hardships should not diminish what he’s accomplished. It’s a record of longevity, but you have to be good for the manager to want to throw you out that many times, and exceedingly durable. Timlin owns an obscure piece of history, but a piece of history nonetheless. It meant something to the Red Sox that he passed Kent Tekulve last night.
“We wanted to get Timlin in there,” Francona said. “We knew the significance of that. That’s a tremendous achievement. That’s a lot of appearances.”
Tony Massarotti offers a nice tribute to Timlin this morning. Chad Finn did an excellent job recapping his career accomplishments last week, and there’s also reaction from Timlin in Amalie Benjamin’s notebook.