In Omar Minaya’s endless quest for a reliable fifth starter, he signed Jose Lima and Livan Hernandez on this date in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
The free-spirited Lima arrived at the Mets’ spring training complex in St. Lucie with his hair dyed blond and his animated personality in mid-season form. He made his teammates smile and had the ability to laugh at himself, but took his pitching seriously.
Lima was coming off a rough year with the Royals, but in 2004 he helped propel the Dodgers to a division title, going 13–5 with a 4.07 ERA. He was only 33 years old and still had a live arm when he joined the Amazins. He was off to a good start at Norfolk when the Mets called him up in May, but in three starts he yielded 14 earned runs in 14 innings and was sent back to AAA.
He seemed to get his act together again in Norfolk and earned a return the big leagues — which lasted one game. He took the mound at Shea on July 7 and got off to a good start, allowing only an unearned run over his first three innings. He failed to get an out in the fourth, however, charged with six runs, capped by a grand slam off the bat of Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis. One batter later, his major league career was over but his enthusiasm for the game was undiminished.
He finished the season with Norfolk and pitched three more seasons with Saltillo in the Mexican League and two independent teams. Lima had a big heart, but not, unfortunately a healthy one; he died of a heart attack in May of 2010
Regarding Livan Hernandez, perhaps Minaya hoped to catch lightning in a bottle as the Mets did with half-brother Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez in 2006, but it turned out to be more a case of lightning not striking twice in the same place. After a slow start, he kicked it into gear in May and logged 11 quality starts out of 16, his ERA inflated by a handful of really bad starts. Then he seemed to run out of gas, and three awful outings into August the Mets released him.
Happy 43rd birthday to catcher Kelly Stinnett. As a Rule 5 draft pick from the Indians, the Mets had to keep him on the roster for the entire 1994 season or send him back. Not a problem, as it turned out. A strong spring training and instincts that impressed manager Dallas Green earned the rookie semi-regular status. Some felt that his taking playing time away from Todd Hundley pushed the incumbent catcher to up his game in order to remain the Mets’ first-string backstop. (If so, it seemed to work.) Stinnett started exactly 100 games in two seasons before being traded for Cory Lidle, and returned for a brief stay in September 2006.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
In honor of Valentine’s Day we’re sending out a little love to Bobby Valentine, the only manager to lead the Mets to back-to-back postseason appearances (sweet!), and outfielder Ellis Valentine, who played with a lot of heart (and a strong right arm, if not much else). While we’re at it, we also wish a happy day to Jose Valentin, John Valentin, Eric Valent, and, on behalf of Ted Berg, Valentino Pascucci.