Former Mets Top Pitching Prospect: Kevin Tapani (1989)

Kevin Ray Tapani was born on February 18, 1964 in Des Moines, Iowa. Tapani grew up on the upper peninsula of Michigan, in Escanaba, playing football as the team’s quarterback in high school. 

While at Central Michigan University, he was first chosen by the Chicago Cubs but did not sign. In 1986 he was selected by the Oakland A’s in the second round of the 1986 amateur draft.

The right hander began his career as a talented young pitcher with a bright future, coming to the New York Mets in a three team deal that also sent Jesse Orosco to Los Angeles. After a 5-1 year at AA Jackson, Tapani went 7-5 at AAA Tidewater getting called up to a talented Mets squad in July 1989.

He debuted at the Astrodome on July 4th allowing just one run on two hits pitching into the 5th inning. He made two more relief appearances in the next two weeks, allowing a run each time out over three innings pitched. On the July 31st trade deadline, Tapani was sent to Minnesota along with Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond and David West for the reigning A.L. CY Young award winner Frank Viola.

Tapani went on to have a fine career in Minnesota, winning 12 games in his first full season coming in second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He followed that by two straight 16 win seasons as a member of the 1991 Twins World Championship team.

He was the number two man behind Jack Morris, going 16-9 (second in the league in wins) with a 2.99 ERA (seventh in the league), striking out 135 batters in 244 innings pitched. He was seventh in the league’s Cy Young Voting coming in the top ten in wins (16) ERA (2.99) starts (34) innings (244) and walks per nine innings (1.47).

Post Season: In the ALCS against Toronto he took the loss in Game #2, then was roughed up in the final Game #5 before his old Mets team mate came on to help him out & get the win. In the Series Tapani allowed nine runs in ten innings pitched. In the World Series he pitched a gem beating Tom Glavine & the Braves in Game #2, pitching 8 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits striking out three. In Game #5 he was knocked out early after allowing four runs over four innings in the Braves 14-5 win. Overall he was 1-2 in the post season.

In 1992 Tapani tied John Smiley for the team lead with 16 wins, going 16-11 with a 3.97 ERA. The Twins fell to fifth place the next year & Tapani dropped to a 12-15 record. In July 1995 after going 6-11 with the Twins, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers going 4-2 posting an ERA over five.

In 1996 he signed with the White Sox going 13-10 for the year then jumping to the North side of Chicago signing with the Cubs. In 1998 he was revived possibly had his best season. He won the second most games in the league, going 19-9, with 136 strikeouts in 219 innings pitched, throwing two shutouts and posting a 4.85 ERA. 

He pitched three more seasons for the Cubs but never posted another winning record finishing his career after the 2001 season.

In 13 seasons Tapani was 143-125, with a 4.35 ERA striking out 1482 batters, throwing nine shutouts with 26 complete games in 361 games pitched. In 1999 Tapani was elected as a member of the Central Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame. 

He currently resides in Minnetonka, Minnesota with his wife & three children.


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