Wednesday, August 4, 2010
#328) RICK AGUILERA
Rick Aguilera was selected by the New York Mets organization in the third round of the free agent draft on June 6, 1983. He made his major-league debut with the team on June 12, 1985. Rick pitched the final two innings of the 7-3 extra-inning win over the Phillies in Philadelphia. The young right-hander was credited with his first major-league victory. During his rookie campaign he finished with a 10-7 record and 3.24 ERA in 19 starts. A year that saw the Mets fall just short of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division title.
Aguilera had earned his spot as the fifth starter in the rotation during the 1986 season. He posted almost identical numbers as he had the previous year. Only this time for a team that would run away with the National League Eastern Division. The Mets bested the second place Philadelphia Phillies by a whopping 21-1/2 games. Rick was standing on the top step of the dugout at Shea Stadium when the team clinched on September 17th. He was overcome by fans charging onto the field in celebration. "As soon as Wally (Backman) caught the ball, I was fallen on," recalled Aguilera. "Somebody came out of the stands, trying to get on the field, and landed on me. I never felt any pain, but my arm felt numb." He would miss a start, but return to pitch in the post season. With the Mets going to a shortened rotation his role became that of a reliever. Rick threw five scoreless innings of relief against the Houston Astros in the National League Playoffs, but struggled in the World Series. Aguilera was able to pick up the victory as the pitcher of record in the legendary Game 6 of that series. Becoming a member of the 1986 World Champions when the Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in the deciding Game 7.
Rick enjoyed his best season as a starting pitcher the next year. Despite missing three months on the disabled list, he would post a career best 11 wins with a 3.60 ERA during his 18 appearances of 1987. An elbow operation was eventually performed and forced Aguilera to miss most of the 1988 season and have the Mets replace him with David Cone in the rotation. Upon his return Rick found himself as New York's long reliever.
During the winter of 1989 he was not only asked to continue in the bullpen, but also for reduced pay after agreeing to avoid salary arbitration. "No one likes to go back in salary, but the Mets treated Rick well last year," Aguilera's agent would state. "What Rick wants to do now is concentrate on baseball and get back into the starting rotation, either with the Mets or someone else if the Mets trade him."
A strange thing happened. After surgery the velocity on Rick's pitches increased and despite his continued desire to once again become a starter he flourished as a reliever. The Mets established Aguilera as the team's late-inning right-handed option where he registered seven saves. Forcing him to tell The Sporting News, "The most amazing thing is that I am actually learning to like being a reliever."
The Mets traded Aguilera along with Tim Drummond, David West, Kevin Tapani, and Jack Savage to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Frank Viola on July 31, 1989.
Rick became the Twins all-time saves leader and entered the Twins Hall of Fame in 2008.
After his playing career he settled in California to spend time with his wife and two children while pursuing real estate ventures. "It's been a bit of a surprise how busy real life is," Aguilera was quoted. "Baseball is it's own little fantasy world. I'm realizing how busy real life can get with kids." Rick was the former head baseball coach for Santa Fe Christian School and has been a speaker on both faith and baseball.
Rick Aguilera signed his card in the set for my good friend, Jessie at JP's Sports and Rock Solid Promotions autograph show in Uniondale, NY on October 23, 2011. Adding an awesome "1986 World Series Champions" inscription.