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Michael John Caruso
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 172 lb.
- High School M. Stoneman Douglas High School
- Debut March 31, 1998
- Final Game August 9, 2002
- Born May 27, 1977 in Queens, NY USA
Mike Caruso had a brief career in the major leagues at a young age. He hit .306 when he was 21 years old.
Caruso was born in Queens, NY, and went to high school in Florida. He was a 2nd round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants in 1996. In Bellingham of the Northwest League that year, he posted pretty good numbers - .292/~.331/.359 and was named the League All-Star shortstop.
In 1997, he was doing rather well at San Jose of the California League, hitting .333/~.390/.451, when he was included in a big trade with the Chicago White Sox. Eight players changed teams, including Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Caruso and a couple of other players going to the White Sox in return for established pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernández. Caruso was named the California League All-Star shortstop for his play there. Caruso finished up less impressively with 28 games for Winston-Salem of the Carolina League, where he hit .227/~.258/.286. But the major leagues were waiting.
The 1997 White Sox had used 33-year-old Ozzie Guillen at shortstop, and he had posted averages of .245/.275/.337. Never much of a hitter, Guillen had been a premier defensive shortstop until his range factor had fallen off after injuries suffered in the 1990s. Guillen was granted free agency after the season, so the White Sox were looking for a new shortstop. In 1998, Caruso made the major league team out of spring traning, even though he had never played above Single A ball in his career. In 133 games with the White Sox, he hit .306/.331/.390 with 6 triples and 5 home runs, and stole 22 bases in 28 attempts. He was a mere 21 years of age.
In 1999, he fell off substantially. His averages with the White Sox were down to .250/.280/.297, and he stole only 12 bases in 26 attempts. It was a time of big sluggers (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were putting on their annual home run show), and Caruso wasn't a home run hitter or a player who drew many walks. His range, which had been above average in 1998, dipped down in 1999, too.
The White Sox went with Jose Valentin as their shortstop in 2000, the year they won the division with young players such as Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko, and Magglio Ordonez, along with veteran Frank Thomas. Caruso, who was a year younger than Lee and Konerko, and three years younger than Ordonez, found himself in Triple A in 2000 for the first time in his career. At Charlotte of the International League, he hit .246/.301/.314, with a batting average lower than the ones he had put up in the two previous major league seasons. The White Sox let him go on waivers after the season, and he was picked up by the Seattle Mariners, who let him go a week later, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took him.
The Rays put him at Durham in the International League, and his numbers improved to .292/~.335/.364. However, at this point, he was 24, no longer a young phenom compared to other players in the league.
A free agent once more, in 2002 the Cincinnati Reds picked him up. He played only 3 games for their double A affiliate Chattanooga, getting 5 hits, when the Kansas City Royals picked him up for their AAA team in Omaha. He hit well, .306/.350/ .379, but when called up in late 2002, hit only .100 in 20 at-bats for the Royals.
He was out of professional baseball in 2003, but in 2004 played for an independent team, the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, where he hit .299/.329/.343. In 2007, Caruso began a comeback as a member of the South Georgia Peanuts in the independent South Coast League. Caruso batted .362 while primarily playing third base and batting third in the lineup. He also played independent ball in 2008 and 2009, after which he hung up his spikes for good.