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Jeff Suppan

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Jeffrey Scot Suppan

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Jeff Suppan has hit two home runs in his career: one in the 2005 regular season, and one in the 2006 NLCS. Strangely, both were off the same pitcher, Steve Trachsel of the New York Mets. He was named MVP of the 2006 NLCS thanks to two outstanding starts against the Mets, helping the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in seven games, and sending them to their second World Series in three years.

He graduated from Crespi High School in Encino, CA in 1993 and was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the 1993 amateur draft. Jeff was a first round selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft on November 18, 1997, the third selection overall, after pitching with the Sox from 1995 to 1997. He was 7-3 in Boston in his last season, but with an ERA of 5.69, which was his best in three years there. He only went 1-7 for the Diamondbacks in their inaugural 1998 season, then was sold to the Kansas City Royals on September 3rd, making four appearances with the Royals in September. He then became a regular member of the Royals' starting rotation, pitching over 200 innings every year from 1999 to 2002; he won 10 games the first three seasons and 9 the fourth, with ERAs ranging from 4.37 to 5.32.

Suppan signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 2003 season and made 21 starts with the Bucs, going 10-7, 3.57. That good work got the Red Sox interested in re-acquiring him, which they did at the trading deadline on July 31, sending P Mike Gonzalez and 2B Freddy Sanchez to Pittsburgh for Suppan and Ps Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez. Suppan did not pitch as well in his return to the American League however, only going 3-4, 5.57 in 11 games; he wasn't used in the postseason and became a free agent again. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he pitched for three seasons. He was a few innings shy of 200 each year, but his other statistics were better than in the first part of his career: 16-9, 4.16 in 2004; 16-10, 3.57 in 2005 and 12-7, 4.12 in 2006. He pitched in the postseason all three years. He won a game in both the NLDS and NLCS in 2004 before losing his sole World Series start against the Red Sox. He made one start and was not involved in the decision in the 2005 NLCS, then had his postseason heroics in 2006. That year culminated with a no-decision in his World Series start against the Detroit Tigers, but he won a ring as a member of the World Champion Cardinals team.

After the 2006 season, Suppan signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was an inning-eating .500 pitcher the first two years, going 12-12, 4.62 in 34 starts in 2007, and then 10-10, 4.96 in 31 starts in 2008 when the Brewers played in the postseason for the first time since the 1982 World Series. He started one game against the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS, but was hit hard, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits in 3 innings and being tagged with the loss. He fell back in 2009, to 7-12, 5.29 in 30 starts, then started 2010 on the wrong foot. He was bumped from the starting rotation and put up a 7.84 ERA in 15 outings, with an 0-2 record, to earn his release on June 7. The Cardinals brought him back a week later, after losing Kyle Lohse to an injury, and while he put up a decent 3.84 ERA in 70 innings, he was only 3-6 and walked more batters than he struck out. Suppan went to spring training with the San Francisco Giants in 2011 but failed to earn a spot and was let go on March 29th. Not ready to quit just yet, he signed on with the Kansas City Royals and was assigned to the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers, where he spent the entire 2011 season, going 11-8, 4.78 in 28 games, pitching 165 2/3 innings. He went back home to manage his restaurant, "Soup's Sports Grill", in Woodland Hills, CA, but still felt he had some innings left in his arm. Thus, in February of 2012, he signed another minor league deal, this time with the San Diego Padres, in the hope of having one last shot at the majors. On May 2nd, he won his first game in almost two years when he pitched 5 scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers; he had been called up from the AAA Tucson Padres earlier in the day to step in for the injured Cory Luebke. He was solid again in his second outing, giving up one run in five innings in beating the Colorado Rockies, 3-1, on May 8th. All in all, he made 6 starts, with a record of 2-3, 5.28, before being designated for assignment on June 1st. While he did not pitch anywhere in 2013, he did not make his retirement from baseball official for another year, making the announcement on January 2, 2014.

Suppan forged himself a nice career by being a league-average starting pitcher at a time when the ability to pitch a lot of innings with an average ERA was handsomely rewarded. The Brewers were much criticized for giving a generous long-term contract to a career .500 pitcher after the 2006 season, but this deal reflected the market rate for starting pitchers and was not out of line. His peak coincided with the Cardinals' best run of the mid-2000s, giving him a chance for some postseason heroics in what was otherwise a career spent largely away from the spotlight.

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