Robert John Apodaca was born on January 31, 1950 in Los Angeles, California. The five foot eleven Mexican / American right hander was drafted by the New York Mets during their pitching rich days in 1971.
At A ball Visalia in 1971 he was 7-1 with a 3.60 ERA making a quick impression. In 1972 he was up at AA Memphis going 11-7 (second to only Randy Sterling in wins) with a 2.80 ERA becoming a highly touted prospect. The next year he was 6-3 posting a 1.80 ERA at AAA Tidewater the third best pitcher on the staff behind Sterling & John Glass.
Apodaca made his debut in late September 1973, in a crucial game against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He allowed one run & two walks in less than one inning of work giving him an infinity ERA. He did not appear in any other games that regular season nor the post season.
In 1974 he had a good spring and made the 1974 Mets roster. How could Met fans ever forget the way his name would roll out of the mouths of announcers Bob Murphy & Lindsey Nelson in those golden days of Mets announcers.
In the 1974 Mets home opener, after the ’73 NL Pennant flag was raised, Apodaca got the call in relief. He appeared in the 9th inning, since the Mets top fireman, Tug McGraw was out sick & not able to pitch that day. With two St. Louis Cardinal runners on base, Apodaca retired Tim McCarver to earn the save in relief of Jerry Koosman. The next day he relieved George Stone in the 9th inning & gave up three straight singles blowing a save opportunity & taking the loss.
On May 13th in St. Louis, he earned his first victory beating Bob Gibson and the Cardinals, pitching five innings of relief. He would remain in the bullpen over the next two months, taking a pair of losses.
In July he was put into the starting rotation of a struggling staff. On July 12th his first start came at Los Angeles, where he pitched six shutout innings beating the Dodgers 5-2.
His next outing wasn't as good, as he was hit hard for five runs by the Giants in Candlestick Park, exiting in the 4th inning. He won his next two decisions including a brilliant two hit seven inning shutout performance against the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium. In September he was back in the bullpen, earning one save, a win & a loss.
For the season he went 6-6 with three saves, posting a 3.50 ERA, In 35 appearances he strike out 54 batters & walked 42 in 103 innings of work.
In 1975 Apodaca was the Mets main relief specialist, taking over as the teams closer when Tug McGraw got traded away to Philadelphia. Apodaca missed the first two weeks of the season on the DL, returning on April 20th. He returned to save his first game, which was in relief of Jon Matlack, beating the Chicago Cubs. Apodaca saved seven games and earned one win through mid June before blowing an opportunity. In that stretch he only allowed four earned runs in 28 innings & pitched good enough for a 1.15 ERA.
He took his first loss in Montreal on June 18th allowing a 9th inning RBI single to Gary Carter & then a 10th inning game winning hit to Pete Mackanin.
In a July game against the Phillies, he took a bouncer to his face & suffered a fractured nose, requiring 14 stitches. He missed most of July but did return at the end of the month for one appearance.
In August he saved four more games. Even though Cleon Jones had been let go due to an ugly scandal on both ends & the Mets fired manager Yogi Berra the team was still in contention, six games back at the start of September. Apodaca earned a three inning, scoreless save on September 5th against the Cardinals.
On September 9th he was beaten in the 10th inning in Montreal on a (former Met) Mike Jorgensen walk off double. Apodaca finished the year strong with two relief wins from September 20th through the 23rd.
He had his best overall season in 1975, posting a 1.48 ERA, with a team leading 13 saves (8th best in the league) and a 3-4 record. He allowed just 66 hits, 4 HRs & 14 earned runs in 85.0 innings pitched, striking out 45 batters & walking 28.
In 1976 he lost his closer job to Skip Lockwood, but made 43 appearances & was second on the staff with five saves. He struggled with a 3-7 record although he posted another strong ERA (2.81), striking out 45 batters & walking 29 in 89 innings. He was also credited with two holds & he finished up thrity other games.
In 1977 he appeared in a career high 59 games, mostly in middle relief for the last place Mets, a franchise that was hitting rock bottom. Once again Apodaca was second on the staff, to Skip Lockwood, with five saves going 4-8, with three holds & a respectable 3.43 ERA. Three of his wins came in the month of June, two were results of leads he had actually blown. On June 30th he pitched three scoreless innings in Montreal & benefited from a Mike Vail 9th inning RBI groundout.
His final win of the year & in his career came on September 17th, as he pitched one inning against the Chicago Cubs. The Mets won the game in the 9th on an Ed Kranepool walk off double.
In Spring Training of 1978 hard luck fell on Apodaca, he tore a ligament in his right elbow which ended up finishing his career. He did not pitch for three seasons, until 1981 when he attempted a comeback with AA Jackson. He pitched in just six games, before being forced to retire, ending a once promising career that never took off.
In just five brief seasons he appeared in 184 games, going 16-25 with a 2.86 ERA and 26 saves. He struck out 197 batters walked 131 in 361 innings pitched. Apodaca made just 11 starts with one complete game to his credit.
Coaching: After his playing days he spent over a decade as a coach in the Mets farm system, starting at Little Falls & Jackson in 1983. That season he helped coach a young Roger McDowell & Calvin Schiraldi.
He went to the Columbia Mets from 1984-1987 working under Bud Harrelson in 1985 & finishing as league champs in 1986. He went to the St. Lucie Mets then back to Jackson in 1989-1990. From 1991- 1996 he was at the Mets AAA level first with Tidewater then at Norfolk when the team moved.
Over the years he tutored Anthony Young, Pete Shourek, Bobby Jones, Paul Byrd, Rick Reed & the Generation K trio of Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, & Paul Gibson.
He was promoted to pitching coach of the New York Mets on Bobby Valentine’s staff from 1996 to 1999. Apodacas staff won 88 games in both 1997 & 1998 posting the leagues 4th best ERA in 1998 & most saves in 1997 (41).
On June 5th 1999, the Mets were one game under .500 & the front office wanted to shake things up a bit. Valentine arrived at Shea‚ to learn that GM Steve Phillips had fired his three closest coaches Apodaca‚ Tom Robinson and Randy Niemann.
Apodaca moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers as pitching coach in 2000-2001, then returned to the Mets organization as pitching coach for St. Lucie in 2002.
In 2003 he got the job as pitching coach for the Colorado Rockies under Clint Hurdle whom he had met while coaching in the Mets minor league system. Their staff went to the World Series in 2007, and got to another post season in 2009. Apodaca held the position through June 26th 2012 when he was asked to be reassigned. He was then named special assistant to the General Manager Dan O'Dowd.