Junior Ortiz: Early Eighties Mets Backup Catcher (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.

In 1980 Otiz had a good year at AA Buffalo hitting 12 HRs while batting .334. Unfortunately, he never matched those numbers again. 

MLB Career: Ortiz debuted for the Pirates in seven games of the 1982 season. In 1983 he began the year in Pittsburgh as a backup to catcher Tony Pena but after just five games played by June, he was traded to the New York Mets for Marvell Wynne.

Mets Career: For the remainder of the 1983 season, Ortiz spent his time in New York backing up Ron Hodges. That season saw big changes for the Mets as the team improved with Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry & the arrival of Keith Hernandez. 

In 68 games Ortiz batted .254 with five doubles & 12 RBIs. Behind the plate he threw out 25% of would-be base stealers & posted a .965 on base %.

1984: This season, the Mets contended for the NL East under new manager Davey Johnson. Ortiz was the back up to Mike Fitzgerad as the team’s catcher in 32 games. 

The young Mets staff now had phenom Dwight Gooden, with a young Ron Darling & Sid Fernandez.

Junior got the start in the second game of the season & drove in a run in the Mets Ron Darling, Doug Sisk combined 2-0 shut out at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

On April 6th, he drove in two more runs in the Mets 8-1 win against the Astros in Houston. On July 6th, Ortiz drove in a pair of runs helping the Mets in a comeback 6-5 win over the Reds at Shea Stadium.

Overall, he was good defensively, but struggled at the plate not hitting over .200 until August but finishing the year up with a .198 average, collecting three doubles & 11 RBIs in 40 games played. 

That season the Mets traded for All Star catcher Gary Carter, there were also high expectations for rookie catcher Mike Gibbons. In December Ortiz returned to Pittsburgh as a Rule V draft player.

Post Mets Career: Ortiz spent five seasons in Pittsburgh from 1985 thru 1989. There he was a backup up to Tony Pena & then Mike Lavalliere. In his first year in Pittsburgh, he batted .292 but only had 72 at bats. That year he threw out 36% of would-be base stealers 6% higher than the league average. In 1988 he hit .280 in 118 at bats, both career best.

In 1990 he was traded to the Minnesota Twins who would finish last but the next year would win the World Series. In 1990 he hit an incredible .335 in 71 games.

In 1991 his average fell off to .209 but his defense was superb, in 41 games he threw out 46% of would-be base stealers catching 13 of 28 runners.

1991 Post Season: In the NLCS win over Toronto he appeared in three games, playing the entire Game #3 extra inning victory going 0-3.

1991 World Series:
In the Championship victory over the Atlanta Braves, he in three games getting two starts & once as a late inning defensive replacement. In Game #3 he collected a single off Steve Avery & in Game #5 he drove in a run in the 14-5 Twins loss.

He was granted free agency & signed with the Cleveland Indians. He then spent two years in Cleveland playing in a career high 95 games in 1993 when main catcher Sandy Alomar went down with injury. In 1994 Ortiz went to the Texas Rangers playing behind Ivan Pudge Rodriguez in his final season.

Career Stats: In his 13-year career, Ortiz was a lifetime .256 hitter, with 484 hits, 5 HRs, 71
doubles, 5 triples & 186 RBIs. He struck out 222 times walked 121 times with a .305 on base % in 1894 at bats in 749 games.

Behind the plate he threw out 32% of would-be base stealers, making 45 errors in 3303 chances posting a .986 fielding % in 702 games.

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. 

Family: Junior named his son Junior & he is known as Junior JR.


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