Acquired from the Mariners for Eric Thames at the deadline, Steve Delabar is an interesting story. A story that involves it’s share of injuries, hard times, harder work and a prior retirement from the professional game.
Drafted by the Padres in the 29th Round (2004), Delabar kicked around San Diego’s farm system for 3 years while experiencing moderate success en route to accumulating 143 Strikeouts over 172.3.
Pitching for the Padres A ball team in Fort Wayne, Delabar would record a 5.27 ERA over 13.2 IP with an overall record of 2-1 out of the pen. Before the 2008 campaign would come to an end, Delabar would be given his walking papers from the Padres and find himself looking for another shot to prove his value.
Trying, as all baseball players do, to finish out the season, Delabar was picked up by the Florence Freedom of the Frontier league getting into 4 games before signing with another Independent Baseball team in The Brockton Rox (Canadian-American League).
2 seasons of Indy Ball saw Delabar go on to Strike Out an additional 73 hitters over 101.1 Innings Pitched while walking a mere 30 in the process. Pitching in his 12th game of the season, 2009, Delabar injured his right elbow resulting in the eventual addition of a steel plate and 9 screws to his pitching arm. The injury signaled what Delabar thought would be the end of his career in Professional Baseball.
Following the injury, Delabar would return to his home town in Kentucky where the 26 year old would take up Substitute Teaching at local John Hardin High School. With his arm fully healed, Delabar would continue playing ball however the pace of the game would “Slo” down considerably.
In between classes and instructing the Schools Baseball team, Delabar was invited to and won the 2010 Louisville Invitational Tournament Miken Homerun Derby… No I do not know how many he hit.
While coaching the Hardin High Bulldogs, Delabar experimented with a “Velocity Improvement Program” and began experiencing results himself. During his prior career in the pros, Delabar would often top out at 90 MPH on the heat. Following the program, he was reaching 97 on the radar.
The jump in velocity had Delebar thinking that at 27, there may be some fuel left in the tank. Come spring training in 2011, he found himself once again playing in a big league uniform, this time suiting up for the Seattle Mariners.
Delabar would ascend through Seattle’s system at a rapid pace and on September 11th of that same season, he would make his MLB debut pitching under the lights of Safeco Field. The Mariners, down by a Run in the 9th would turn to the rookie in hopes of recording a clean inning. Delebar would K a pair of Royal hitters.
Flash forward to August 13th, 2012.
Delabar (this time pitching for the Blue Jays) would again be called into the game in a high leverage situation. With the Jays and Sox knotted up at 2 in extra innings Delabar was tasked with getting Chicago’s 7-8-9 hitters and rising to the occasion, the former Mariner would do just that… And then some.
Using the Changeup and an array of Fastballs (alternating between the 4-Seam & 2-Seam), Delebar would get the next 4 batters (aided by a Jeff Mathis dropped 3rd Strike) to strikeout setting a Blue Jays record for most K’s in an inning.
On top of setting a Blue Jays mark, Delabar became the first pitcher in MLB history to record 4 Strikeouts in 1 inning (while in extra’s). Not bad for a guy who is a year and a bit removed from playing professional Baseball.
Steve Delabar is an example of what hard work and determination will amount to. His character and 96 MPH Fastball are a welcome addition to this years crop of Blue Jays relief pitchers and the fact that we have him under control until 2018 is only a bonus.