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Durable reliever Mike Timlin debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Mike Timlin. (Lou Sauritch/NBHOF Library)

In more than 1,000 appearances as a relief pitcher – mostly as a set-up man – Mike Timlin took the ball. 

The ball, meanwhile, took him to the top of the baseball world – and earned him lasting respect among opponents and teammates.” 

“I (had) nothing but fun,” Timlin said. 

Timlin, whose 1,058 career games rank eighth on baseball’s all-time list for pitchers, debuts on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, one of 36 players on the 2014 BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2014. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born March 10, 1966 in Midland, Texas, Timlin showed baseball skill as a youngster and enrolled at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, after graduating from Midland High School. The Blue Jays took the 6-foot-4 Timlin in the fifth round of the 1987 MLB Draft, and by 1990 Timlin was a full-time reliever in the minors – using a 93-mph sinking fastball to get batters to pound the ball into the infield grass. 

[Scouting reports on Mike Timlin]

The right-hander debuted with the Blue Jays at the start of the 1991 season, eventually posting a record of 11-6 with a 3.16 earned-run average in 63 games – finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting while helping Toronto win the AL East. 

Arm injuries limited Timlin to just 26 games in 1992, but he returned to health toward the end of the season and pitched in the ALCS and the World Series that fall. Timlin recorded the final out of the 1992 Fall Classic, retiring the Braves’ Otis Nixon on a bunt attempt to give the Blue Jays their first World Series title. 

Timlin helped the Blue Jays repeat as champions in 1993, going 4-2 in 54 games as a set-up man that season. After three more seasons with the Blue Jays, Timlin began the usual nomadic career of a veteran reliever when he was traded to the Mariners in a deadline deal during the 1997 campaign.  

After saving 19 games for Seattle in 1998, Timlin joined the Orioles via free agency in 1999 and posted a career-high 27 saves. But in 2000, he returned to his role as a set-up man – with the Orioles sending him to the Cardinals in another deal at the trade deadline. 

After stints with the Cardinals and Phillies, Timlin found himself with the Red Sox in 2003. For the next six seasons – the final big league campaigns of his career – Timlin became the rock of the Boston bullpen, averaging better than 65 appearances per season. He set a Red Sox record and led the league with 81 appearances in 2005. 

Timlin did not allow any postseason runs in eight appearances in 2003 – permitting just one hit in 9.2 innings – and was a key member of the Sox’s pen during their 2004 and 2007 World Championship seasons. 

“This has been Timlin’s bullpen,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona prior to the 2005 season. “He’ll take the ball any day you give it to him, even when he shouldn’t. You have to be careful of that, but it’s also a real compliment for a guy when I say that.” 

In addition to his 1,058 career appearances, Timlin notched 141 career saves and 467 games finished. 

Timlin became a dedicated advocate of research of combat Lou Gehrig’s Disease – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – an illness which claimed the life of his mother. In 2007, Timlin won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, presented by the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. 

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
1991 25 TOR 11 6 .647 3.16 63 3 17 0 0 3 108.1 94 43 38 6 50 85
1992 26 TOR 0 2 .000 4.12 26 0 14 0 0 1 43.2 45 23 20 0 20 35
1993 27 TOR 4 2 .667 4.69 54 0 27 0 0 1 55.2 63 32 29 7 27 49
1994 28 TOR 0 1 .000 5.18 34 0 16 0 0 2 40.0 41 25 23 5 20 38
1995 29 TOR 4 3 .571 2.14 31 0 19 0 0 5 42.0 38 13 10 1 17 36
1996 30 TOR 1 6 .143 3.65 59 0 56 0 0 31 56.2 47 25 23 4 18 52
1997 31 TOT 6 4 .600 3.22 64 0 31 0 0 10 72.2 69 30 26 8 20 45
1997 31 TOR 3 2 .600 2.87 38 0 26 0 0 9 47.0 41 17 15 6 15 36
1997 31 SEA 3 2 .600 3.86 26 0 5 0 0 1 25.2 28 13 11 2 5 9
1998 32 SEA 3 3 .500 2.95 70 0 40 0 0 19 79.1 78 26 26 5 16 60
1999 33 BAL 3 9 .250 3.57 62 0 52 0 0 27 63.0 51 30 25 9 23 50
2000 34 TOT 5 4 .556 4.18 62 0 40 0 0 12 64.2 67 33 30 8 35 52
2000 34 BAL 2 3 .400 4.89 37 0 31 0 0 11 35.0 37 22 19 6 15 26
2000 34 STL 3 1 .750 3.34 25 0 9 0 0 1 29.2 30 11 11 2 20 26
2001 35 STL 4 5 .444 4.09 67 0 19 0 0 3 72.2 78 35 33 6 19 47
2002 36 TOT 4 6 .400 2.98 72 1 17 0 0 0 96.2 75 35 32 15 14 50
2002 36 STL 1 3 .250 2.51 42 1 10 0 0 0 61.0 48 19 17 9 7 35
2002 36 PHI 3 3 .500 3.79 30 0 7 0 0 0 35.2 27 16 15 6 7 15
2003 37 BOS 6 4 .600 3.55 72 0 13 0 0 2 83.2 77 37 33 11 9 65
2004 38 BOS 5 4 .556 4.13 76 0 12 0 0 1 76.1 75 35 35 8 19 56
2005 39 BOS 7 3 .700 2.24 81 0 27 0 0 13 80.1 86 23 20 2 20 59
2006 40 BOS 6 6 .500 4.36 68 0 22 0 0 9 64.0 78 33 31 7 16 30
2007 41 BOS 2 1 .667 3.42 50 0 19 0 0 1 55.1 46 23 21 7 14 31
2008 42 BOS 4 4 .500 5.66 47 0 26 0 0 1 49.1 60 32 31 9 20 32
18 Yrs 75 73 .507 3.63 1058 4 467 0 0 141 1204.1 1168 533 486 118 377 872

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum