Friday, February 18, 2011
#587) DENNIS SPRINGER
Dennis Springer joined the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on February 4, 2000. "We feel we've added to our pitching depth," General Manager Steve Phillips said after the signing. "He's versatile and proved he can throw a lot of innings." The 35 year-old veteran knuckleballer was in the running for a spot in the Mets starting rotation as the result of a strong showing during spring training camp. Earning his way onto a roster was nothing new. It had taken nine years in the minors before reaching a major-league mound. "But I don't feel because I'm a knuckleballer that I'm any less of a pitcher," Springer explained in 1997. "I'm not going to go out and compete in any triathalons or anything, But I consider myself a hard worker." Left-hander Glendon Rusch was selected to be the fifth starter to begin the season. So Dennis was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Springer pitched three games for the Tides before being promoted to New York on April 18, 2000. He replaced ace pitcher, Bobby J. Jones on the Mets roster. A strained calf muscle had sent Jones to the 15-day disabled list. Dennis was given the starting assignment a few days later on April 22nd. He would throw five and a third innings during the Mets 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.
The right-hander would make his second, and final Mets appearance on April 26th. On a soggy, and miserably cold evening the Mets would fall to the Cincinnati Reds by a lopsided final score of 12-1. The remaining Shea Stadium crowd booed Dennis as he was relieved by Rich Rodriguez in the seventh inning. A depleted bullpen had forced manager Bobby Valentine to stick with Springer despite his being hammered for eight runs and 13 Cincinnati hits. "I think we had a couple of pitchers take one for the team tonight," Valentine was quoted after the game. "It was one of those games that started off on the wrong note and got worse." Reds pitcher Denny Neagle did not help by limiting the Mets offense to just two hits. "It wasn't ideal conditions, by no means, but he did it," Springer said. "It wasn't pretty, but we weren't going to win tonight with the game he threw. And they hit the ball where we weren't."
Reliever Eric Cammack was promoted to New York, and Dennis was optioned back to Norfolk on April 27th. Springer finished the year with a 5-5 record and 4.38 ERA in 25 games for the Tides. He was granted free agency at the close of the 2000 season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 11, 2001. Dennis was a member of the Dodgers when he surrendered Barry Bonds' Major League record-setting 73rd home run on October 7, 2001.
Following his baseball career he returned home to Fresno, California and became a firefighter.
Springer has also been a regular participant at the annual Fresno State Alumni Baseball Game. Featuring his ageless knuckleball against a team of current Bulldog players.
Dennis Springer signed his card in the set for my friend, Stan during the Fresno State Alumni Game at Beiden Field on February 12, 2011.