On January 25th, five ex-Marlins players celebrate their birthdays.
Casey Blalock (38)
Casey Joe Blalock was a 5’11”, 180 lb. right-handed pitcher from Longview, Texas. The Marlins chose him in round number 27 back in 2002, with the 803rd pick out of Louisiana Tech. In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Black put up a 13-13 record, a 4.44 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning, with 222 in 219.
After the draft, Blalock joined the Jamestown Jammers, later earning a promotion to the Jupiter Hammerheads. 2002 would see him split the year between Jupiter and the Greensboro Grasshoppers, but that was the last time that he appeared at any level for any team. For his professional career, he whiffed 112 in 109 frames, held opposing batters to a 0.90 WHIP and a 1.65 ERA, and racked up a 9-6 record.
Brandon Cromer (44)
Brandon Eugene Cromer was a 6’2”, 175 lb. shortstop from Lake City, South Carolina. He was one of a set of four brothers to get drafted by a major league team, with Tripp and Burke making it to the big show. Brandon was chosen in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992, 34th overall out of Lexington HS.
Cromer spent his first five professional seasons rising through Toronto’s minor league system, with a year each with the GCL Blue Jays, the St. Catherine Blue Jays, the Hagerstown Suns, the Dunedin Blue Jays, and the Knoxville Smokies. After a season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, split between the Carolina Mudcats and the Calgary Cannons (both were also Marlins’ affiliates at one time or another), he joined the Marlins double-A team in the Eastern League, the Portland Sea Dogs.
For Portland, Cromer appeared in 122 games through the 1998 campaign, slashing .223/.297/.396 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI. Even so, the Marlins didn’t end up retaining his services, and he spent the next two seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, between the Louisville RiverBats, the Huntsville Stars, and the Indianapolis Indians.
Bryan Ward (46)
Bryan Matthew Ward was a 6’2”, 210 lb. left-handed pitcher from Bristol, Pennsylvania. The Marlins took him in the 20th round of the 1993 draft, with the 575th overall selection out of South Carolina-Aiken.
After the draft, Ward joined the Elmira Pioneers and started 11 games, coming out of the bullpen three times and striking out 63 in 61 1⁄3 innings, with a 1.76 WHIP, a 4.99 ERA, and a 2-5 record. The following year with the Kane County Cougars one level up, he was 3-4 in 47 relief appearances for a 3.40 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and 62 K’s in 55 2⁄3 innings.
Ward split the next three seasons between the Brevard County Manatees, the Portland Sea Dogs, and the Charlotte Knights, striking out 377 batters over 442 frames and going an aggregate 29-25. He started 73 times during those years. After the 1997 season, he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox off waivers.
Over the next seven years, Ward also appeared in the systems of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Anaheim Angels, the Boston Red Sox, the Colorado Rockies, and the Seattle Mariners, making major league stops in Chicago, Philly, and Anaheim. In 68 major league games, he went 1-3 with a 5.07 ERA, 66 whiffs in 94 innings, and a 1.52 WHIP.
Richie Lewis (52)
Richie Todd Lewis is a 5’10”, 175 lb. right-handed pitcher from Muncie, Indiana. In 1987, the Montreal Expos chose him in the second round of the draft with the 44th overall pick out of Florida State University. As a Seminole, Lewis totaled a 38-12 record in 86 games, starting 40 of them. He struck out 520 batters in 383 innings, earned a 1.33 WHIP and finished with a 3.22 ERA.
Lewis joined the triple-A Indianapolis Indians after college, appearing in two games out of the bullpen to close out 1987. In 1988, he spent the year with the Jacksonville Suns, then Montreal’s Southern League affiliate, going 5-3 over a dozen starts.
After a few more years of seasoning, and a Montreal trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Chris Myers, Lewis joined the Orioles organization just prior to the 1991 trading deadline. He was 1-1 in two starts for Baltimore in 1992 in his first two major league appearances despite allowing eight runs in 6 2⁄3 innings. The Florida Marlins chose him with the 51st pick in the expansion draft following the ‘92 season.
Lewis would make his Florida debut as one of the members of the first ever Marlins’ bullpen. In three seasons of major league baseball for the Fish, he totaled a 7-8 record for a 4.15 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP, and 142 strikeouts in 167 innings. He threw 2,737 pitches in total for the Marlins, 3.6 per batter faced, and finished his Florida career with a just-above-average 104 ERA+. After the 1995 season, the Marlins granted free agency.
Matthew Martinez (47)
Matthew A. Martinez was a 5’9”, 185 lb. second baseman from Sacramento, California. In 1993, the Marlins chose him in the 26th round, 743rd overall out of Sacramento State. In two seasons of college ball, he slashed .364/.490/.457, with 75 stolen bases in 111 games.
Martinez joined the Elmira Pioneers after his selection, and in 64 games slashed .225/.323/.261 with 14 stolen bases and 19 RBI. It was his only appearance in affiliated ball. In 1995, he played in four contests for the Ogden Raptors in the independent Pioneer League.
Thanks for reading, and if your birthday is also January 25th, then Happy Birthday to you as well as our Marlins. Tune in tomorrow for more in Marlins’ history.