Oct 23, 2014

Early Eighties Mets Backup Catcher: Junior Ortiz (1983-1984)

Adalberto Colon Ortiz was born October 24, 1959 in Humacao, Puerto Rico. The five foot eleven catcher, was originally signed as a teenager by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977.

He had a good year at AA Buffalo in 1980 hitting 12 HRs while batting .334, although he never matched those numbers again. He debuted for the Pirates in seven games of the 1982 season. In 1983 he began the year in Pittsburgh as a back up to catcher Tony Pena but after five games played, he was traded to the New York Mets for Marvell Wynne in early June.

For the remainder of the 1983 season, Ortiz spent his time in New York backing up Ron Hodges. In 68 games he batted .254 with five doubles & 12 RBIs. Behind the plate he threw out 25% of would be base stealers & posted a .965 on base %.

In 1984 he was the back up to Mike Fitzgerad as the team’s catcher. He got the start in the second game of the season & drove in a run in the Mets 2-0 win at Wrigley Field in Chicago against the Cubs.

The next game he drove in two more runs in the Mets 8-1 win against the Astros in Houston. He struggled at the plate through the season finishing the year up with a .198 average, three doubles & 11 RBIs in 40 games played. With high expectations for rookie catcher Mike Gibbons & a trade for Gary Carter on the horizon, Ortiz returned to Pittsburgh as a Rule V draft player in December.

In Pittsburgh he was a backup up to Tony Pena & then Mike Lavalliere from 1985-1989. He went to the Minnesota Twins and played in the 1991 World Series for them hitting .200 and driving in a run against the Atlanta Braves.

Ortiz then spent two years in Cleveland with the Indians playing in a career high 95 games in 1993 due to main catcher Sandy Alomar’s injuries. Ortiz then went to the Texas Rangers in 1994 playing behind Pudge Rodriguez in his final season.

In his 13 year career, Ortiz was a life time .256 hitter, with 484 hits, 5 HRs, 71 doubles, 5 triples & a .305 on base % in 1894 at bats in 749 games.

Behind the plate he threw out 32% of would be base stealers, also posting a .986 fielding %.

Trivia: During his career he suffered one of the strangest injuries in baseball history, having to sit out a game because he stepped on a papaya. Junior named his son Junior and he is known as Junior JR.

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