At Age 40, Scott Erickson Contemplates Comeback

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At Age 40, Scott Erickson Contemplates Comeback

A wise man once said, "All good things must come to an end."

In recent history, an assorted mix of sports stars must have missed the memo.

In recent memory, numerous athletes have retired from their respective sport, only to return to pick up the game again.

Michael Jordan retired from basketball in 1993 to pursue a professional baseball career after winning three NBA championships and three MVP awards. After realizing baseball wasn't his cup of tea, he returned to the NBA, where he won three more championships and two more MVP awards. He would retire again in 1998, only to return once more in 2001. 

Roger Clemens arguably has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the last 20 years. Before his first retirement in 2003, he had won six Cy Young awards, the 1986 AL MVP, was a nine-time All Star, and had amassed a record of 291-160.

Clemens retired from major league baseball in 2003, only to return in 2004 with the Houston Astros. Clemens would win the NL Cy Young in Houston and would pitch for four more years, bringing his win total to 354.

The most recent athlete to hope for the success of Jordan and Clemens is Scott Erickson.

Erickson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the fourth round of the 1989 draft and made his debut vs. Texas on June 25, 1990. Erickson would have a mediocre rookie year, going 8-4 with 53 strikeouts and a 2.87 ERA in 118 innings pitched.

Erickson's breakout year was in 1991, when he won a league-leading 20 games with only eight losses. He finished second in AL Cy Young voting (behind Roger Clemens), and was one of five Twins in the top 20 in MVP voting (Kirby Puckett, Erickson, Jack Morris, Chili Davis, and Rick Aguilera).

Erickson was also an All-Star in 1991 and was scheduled to start the game. But an injury left Erickson out of the game, and teammate Jack Morris started the game in his stead.

Erickson's success didn't last in Minnesota. After the '91 season, the Twins saw very dismal times. Erickson wouldn't win more than 13 games in a season during his last four-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota, and he was a 19-game loser in 1993, only two years after winning 20.

After starting the 1995 season 4-6, Erickson was traded to Baltimore for RP Scott Klingenbeck and OF Kimera Bartee, and both saw limited action with the Twins. Erickson was part of the mid-'90s fire sale in which the Twins got rid of every player whose salary exceeded over $1M, except Brad Radke.

In his career against the Twins, Erickson was 9-3 with 88 Ks and a 3.43 ERA.

In Baltimore, Erickson saw relatively mediocre success. He won 69 games for the O's between '95 and '99, and he won 16 games twice ('97 and '98). But 1998 would be his last winning season, and he would go 10-20 during his last two seasons in Baltimore.

In 2004, Erickson signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets and was traded that July to Texas for a minor league player named Josh Hoffpauir. He was granted free agency that October and signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, making the Dodgers Erickson's third team in 11 months. Erickson would be released by the Mets in February of 2005 after going 1-4 with an ERA of 6.02 in a limited relief role.

Erickson signed with the New York Yankees in February of 2006 but would be released the following June after giving up 12 runs in 11 innings. Erickson hasn't appeared on a major league roster since.

But Erickson made a splash in the headlines last week, saying that he wants to return to pro ball in a Twins uniform.

The Twins have lost setup man Pat Neshek to injury for the entire '09 season, and RP Dennys Reyes has fled Minnesota via free agency. The Twins have a very young pitching staff that consists of Scott Baker (age 27), Francisco Liriano (age 26), Nick Blackburn (age 25), Glen Perkins (age 25), and Kevin Slowey (age 24).

Last season, these Twins starters went 50-34 but saw limited efforts from Liriano before the All Star Break. Livan Hernandez also went 10-8 but was waived by the Twins in July.

The Twins also have promising hopes for young lefty Jose Mijares, who only allowed one earned run in 10.3 IP as a reliever last season.

Joe Nathan has the most major league experience of the pitching staff but always sees limited playing time, as he is a closer.

Over the past few seasons, the Twins have always signed a veteran player to help develop young players and fill in holes as needed. Some of the faces the Twins have seen over recent years include Tony Batista, Livan Hernandez, Craig Monroe, and Rondell White. Most of these players only last through midseason, and although their veteran leadership is admirable, their play is soon eclipsed by their protégés.

Twins GM Bill Smith has said that if Erickson hopes to pursue a comeback with the Twins, he has to prove he can still play by competing in Winter Ball. Erickson has yet to show up, which strongly decreases the chance Erickson will re-don his once feared No. 19 (although he would have to reacquire the number from frequent call-up Howie Clark).

Erickson's career ERA is 4.59, and he hasn't had an ERA under 5.00 since 1999. But if he can prove in Winter Ball that he can eat up innings while keeping his run total down, there may be a slim chance Scott Erickson may once again lace up in the majors.

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