#62 - BRENDAN DONNELLY, P
Brendan Donnelly had a long road to the major leagues. He was almost 31 years old when he made his debut with the Angels in April of 2002. The road he traveled included quitting baseball altogether and getting a job as a bartender - Darrel Strawberry walked in and had a few beers. Donnelly mentioned he had just left the minors in frustration. Strawberry encouraged him to try again, saying that as long as he wasn't injured there was always hope. Does this sound like a screenplay yet? Well actually Brendan played an uncredited part in a real Hollywood screenplay. In the film "The Rookie", Jim Morris makes his major league debut after having left the minor leagues for a job teaching high school. A player on the 40-Man roster had to be cut to make room for him. That would be Brendan Donnelly. But he was cut many times by many clubs.
It was nine years and ten months to the day from June 9, 1992 when the White Sox drafted him to April 9, 2002 when he made his debut in middle relief for the Angels. He bought a gold chain with his $1,500 signing bonus and vowed to be wearing it the day he made it to the major leagues. He kept that vow. Aged 30 he had made the show.
Brendan pitched for five seasons with the Angels, appearing in 276 games (tenth most by an Angels pitcher) without starting any. He threw 295 innings (and had exactly 295 strikeouts) and was a critical link to the eighth inning. Mike Scioscia's great reputation as a manager was built on the Donnelly to Shields to Percival bridge of 2002, 2003 and 2004. His 7.1 Wins Above Replacement is just behind the 7.2 of Joe Saunders but Donnelly compiled those WAR W's in 400 fewer innings.
But Donnelly was much more than the numbers. In the 2002 World Series he faced 28 batters, struck out 6, allowing only one hit in 7.2 IP and probably greatest and most unsung was coming in to pitch the eighth inning of Game 6 when Scott Spiezio's blast had made the game 5-3. He walked Benito Santiago on a full count but got JT Snow to fly out and then struck out Reggie Sanders and David Bell. He was rewarded with the W in that historic game.
Brendan's 2003 was an outstanding season - he had a 1.53 ERA in 74 Innings Pitched with 79 Ks. And that was after slumping in the second half. He was named to the All Star team (rare for a middle reliever but it helps when your manager is the manager of the team) and once again was in the right place in the right time, picking up the W in a late inning comeback.
But make no mistake that his appearance on this list is luck. Donnelly was integral to the '02 champions and two division winners. No highlight video of the Angels golden decade would be complete without a shot of the man in the goggles leaving opposing hitters THUNDERSTRUCK.