Saturday, November 19, 2011
#732) GEREMI GONZALEZ
Geremi Gonzalez signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on January 24, 2006. A once highly-touted prospect with the Chicago Cubs who following a pair of major elbow surgeries hoped for a healthy return. The Venezuelan native was given a minor-league contract and invited to major-league spring training camp. There in Port St. Lucie, Florida he lockered next to Jose Lima, and the two pitchers developed a friendship. The duo were the perpetrators of many practical jokes on their Mets teammates throughout the two months of camp. Before heading north, it was decided that Gonzalez would be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to start the 2006 season.
The National League Eastern Division leading Mets found themselves in need of starting pitching, and Geremi was promoted to New York. He made his debut with the club on May 13, 2006. The righthander faced the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. "Pitching from the first-base side of the rubber out of a hunched, stiff windup, Gonzalez was anything but tentative, firing his fastball over the plate and letting its movement work for him." Is how the New York Times described his work that game. The result was a five-plus inning performance in which he only surrendered two solo home runs. An implosion from the Mets bullpen kept Geremi from receiving the victory in an eventual 9-8 New York win.
Next up was a marquee matchup with the New York Yankees at Shea Stadium on May 19th. Gonzalez squared off against Randy Johnson, and was quickly battered by the Yankees offense. Geremi lasted but three innings while allowing nine hits, and six runs. He exited the game with a ballooned ERA of 10.13. Remarkably, the Mets would rally back to win 7-6 on a game winning ninth-inning hit by David Wright off Mariano Rivera.
Due to the struggles of Gonzalez and Jose Lima, changes were made to the starting rotation. The Mets added Alay Soler from Norfolk, and acquired Orlando Hernandez in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Geremi quickly found his opportunity limited.
"Who knows? Gonzalez might come around and do a good job today," manager Willie Randolph was quoted before his next start on May 25th. "He might deserve another shot." Instead Geremi surrendered deep home runs to Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard to stake the Philadelphia Phillies to a 3-0 first inning lead. He would pitch six innings, but see New York fall by a final score of 5-3. Gonzalez was designated for assignment following the conclusion of the game.
The club traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Mike Adams on May 26, 2006. Ending his brief Mets career with an 0-0 record, and 7.71 ERA over 14 innings of work.
Geremi was on a pier along a beach in western Venezuela when he was the victim of a fatal lightning strike. Gonzalez tragically passed away (at the young age of 33) in Punta Palma on May 25, 2008. Two years to the day from his final appearance at Shea Stadium.
I created the set card for Geremi Gonzalez from an autographed index card purchased on October 17, 2011.