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Danny Rios

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Daniel Rios

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[edit] Biographical Information

Danny Rios enters his 16th season in professional baseball in 2008 even though he was undrafted out of college. He was the third major league player to have been born in Spain. Rios had one of the best pitching seasons in Korea Baseball Organization history in 2007.

[edit] Youth

Rios's parents were Cuban and he was born in Spain. At age 2, his family immigrated to the United States, where he grew up and went to college.

[edit] Yankees organization

Rios signed as an amateur free agent with the New York Yankees in 1993. He debuted with the GCL Yankees, going 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA and six saves in 24 games. He had the rare honor of being the closer on a team which briefly featured Mariano Rivera (then a starter). In 1994, Rios had his first year in full-season ball, going 3-2 with 17 saves and a 0.87 ERA in 37 games for the Greensboro Bats and allowing no earned runs (2 runs overall) in 10 1/3 IP for the Tampa Yankees (2 saves in 9 games). Rios's composite ERA of 0.70 was presumably one of the lowest in all of the minor leagues that year.

Rios remained dazzling in 1995. With Tampa, he had a 2.00 ERA, 0-4 record, 24 saves and 72 strikeouts in 67 1/3 IP. He finished 53 games, most in the Florida State League.

Rios moved to the cusp of the major leagues in 1996. He went 3-1 with 17 saves and a 2.09 ERA for the Norwich Navigators and 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 24 games for the Columbus Clippers. Baseball America rated him as the #9 prospect in the Yankee system, one spot ahead of fellow right-hander Tony Armas Jr.

Rios spent most of 1997 with Columbus, doing an effective job, if not as impressive as his prior three years. In 58 games, he went 7-4 with 3 saves and a 3.08 ERA. He was four games pitched behind teammate Dale Polley for the International League lead. He made his major league debut in rough form on May 30, relieving Ramiro Mendoza with two on and one out against the Red Sox. He promptly served up back-to-back home runs to Wil Cordero and Mo Vaughn, the first two batters he faced. An inning later, Scott Hatteberg added another homer. He had allowed 3 runs in 1 2/3 IP, all on homers. He returned to Columbus but came back to the Yankees for a game late in the year, replacing Hideki Irabu with one on and one out in the 7th inning on September 5. He allowed three straight singles, bringing in one inherited runner and one another score. After back-to-back singles to open the 8th, he was replaced by Graeme Lloyd, ending a horrible rookie year in the majors - 9 hits and 5 runs in 2 1/3 innings plus three inherited runners plated.

[edit] Royals System

The Yankees waived Rios in March of 1998 and he was picked up by the Kansas City Royals. He threw in five games early in the year for Kansas City, but struggled. He went 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA and would never again pitch in the major leagues, though he was just 25. He went 6-7 with one save and a 5.63 ERA for the 1998 Omaha Royals, being used regularly as a starting pitcher for the first time in his professional career.

Rios was moved back to the bullpen in 1999 but the results were not good. He went 10-4 with Omaha to tie for the team lead in wins and saved four games, but had a 6.07 ERA.

[edit] Independent leagues and Mexico

In 2000, Rios moved to the Newark Bears, going 2-3 with a 4.26 ERA. He went southbound - and his career went north for the first time in several years. He was 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA for the Union Laguna Cottoneers

Dan was 18-5 with a 2.98 ERA for Union Laguna, finishing 9th in the Mexican League in ERA. He led the Liga in victories.

[edit] South Korea

Rios drew notice overseas and was picked up by the KIA Tigers. He helped the club finish second in his first season there, going 14-5 with 13 saves and a 3.14 ERA. He was 4th in the Korea Baseball Organization in ERA. He fell to 10-13 in 2003, but his 3.82 ERA still ranked 9th in the KBO.

In 2004, Danny led the KBO with 223 innings pitched. He went 17-8 with a 2.87 ERA, finishing 4th in ERA behind Myung-hwan Park, Gary Rath and Yong-soo Bae. He tied Rath and Bae for the league lead in wins, though Bae had six fewer losses than Rios and Rath.

At age 32, the right-hander was traded mid-season to the Doosan Bears. Cumulatively, he was 15-12 with a 3.51 ERA, third in the KBO in ERA behind Min-han Sohn and Won-hyung Kim. He battled control problems, walking 147 in 205 1/3 IP, but also tied Bae for the KBO lead in strikeouts (also 147).

Rios was 12-16 with a 2.90 ERA in 2006 for Doosan.

The veteran started 2007 with a splash - through September 23, he was 20-5 with a 1.96 ERA, leading the league in wins and ERA. He became the sixth pitcher in KBO history to have won 10+ games in six consecutive seasons, following Si-jin Kim (1983-1988), Dong-yol Sun (1986-1991), Kang-chul Lee (1989-1998), Min-chul Jung (1992-1999) and Min-tae Chung (1996-2000). At that point, his career KBO record was 88-59, 3.00. He became the first 20-game winner in the KBO since Chung won that many in 1999; KBO schedules are only 126 games, making 20-game winners rarer than in the US. He was the first foreigner to win 20 games in a year (not counting Japanese natives of South Korean descent).

Rios finished 22-5 with a 2.07 ERA. He won five more games than runners-up Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenny Rayborn and his ERA was .77 was ahead of runner-up Byung-ryong Jae. He whiffed 147, second in the KBO to Ryu, to miss out on the pitching Triple Crown. It was the highest win total by a starter since Hiroaki Fukushi in 1983. Rios continued his dominance in the post-season. In game one of the 2007 Korean Series, Danny threw a four-hit shutout against the SK Wyverns. He was less successful in game four, allowing 9 hits and 4 runs in five innings to take the loss against 19-year-old rookie Kwang-hyun Kim. He easily won the Korea Baseball Organization MVP award with 71 of 91 votes, beating out batting champion Hyun-gon Lee. He also won the KBO Gold Glove at pitcher.

[edit] Japan

Rios signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after 2007, getting a 2-year, $3.8 million deal. Yakult was hoping Rios would match the success of their last KBO import pitcher, Seth Greisinger. Rios did not do well - he went 2-7 with a 5.46 ERA. On May 21, a drug test showed traces of hydroxystanozolol, a metabolite of the anabolic steroid stanozolol, and another test on June 21 also uncovered hydroxystanozolol. As a result, on June 28, Rios was tagged with the second one-year suspension in NPB history due to steroids (following Luis A. Gonzalez). KBO officials said Rios was never tested for steroids while playing in Korea. Rios was released by Yakult shortly thereafter.

Rios's repertoire includes a sharp slider, change-up and fastball around 90 mph.

[edit] KBO Statistics

Year Team G CG SHO W L SV HLD IP HA HRA BB HBP SO R ER WPCT ERA
2002 KIA 54 3 0 14 5 13 1 157 2/3 140 14 44 24 102 59 55 0.519 3.14
2003 KIA 30 2 0 10 13 0 0 188 2/3 186 19 62 28 121 93 80 0.435 3.82
2004 KIA 32 3 2 17 8 0 0 222 2/3 209 10 70 25 145 75 71 0.680 2.87
2005 KIA 19 2 0 6 10 0 0 113 2/3 140 17 35 14 71 72 66 0.375 5.23
2005 Doosan 13 1 0 9 2 0 0 91 2/3 63 3 22 3 76 16 14 0.818 1.37
2005 Total 32 3 0 15 12 0 0 205 1/3 203 20 57 17 147 88 80 0.556 3.51
2006 Doosan 33 3 1 12 16 0 0 233.0 204 14 50 14 145 86 75 0.429 2.90
2007 Doosan 33 6 4 22 5 0 0 234 2/3 191 8 58 16 147 69 54 0.815 2.07
KBO Totals 215 20 7 90 59 13 1 1242.0 1133 85 341 124 807 470 415 0.604 3.01

Sources: June 25 Korea Times article on Rios by Kang Seung-woo, Rios's KBO page, 1994-2007 Baseball Almanacs, 1995 Baseball Guide, Korea Times on Rios's 20-win season, Korea Beat story on Rios

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