Here's your brief history of Nelson Figueroa. He's a right-handed breaking-ball artist who has never had anything but a high-80s fastball. When he graduated from high school in Brooklyn, he was 5-10 and 130 pounds. No one wanted him so he took his 1050 SAT score to Brandeis, where he pitched for two years.
He finally got his break with an invitation to pitch in the Cape Cod league. He made the most of that opportunity and the Mets took him in the 30th round of the 1995 draft. He dominated the Sally league in 1996 and the New York media fell in love with him. At the 1998 deadline, after two less impressive seasons at Double A, the Mets dealt him to the D'Backs with Bernard Gilkey for RHP WIllie Blair and C Jorge Fabregas. The D'backs then dealt him to the Phillies, two years later, with Padilla, Travis Lee, and Omar Daal for Curt Schilling. The Brewers claimed him off waivers from the Phillies in 2002 and the Pirates used him for 35 innings, mainly out of the bullpen, last year.
Figueroa knows that the Pirates don't regard him as a likely part of the next championship roster. As Ed Eagle reports for MLB.com:
Opportunities have been rare for Figueroa with the Pirates. Despite two solid seasons at Triple-A Nashville, it took the trade of Kris Benson and injuries to Wells, Burnett and Dave Williams before he was given a shot to start for the Bucs this season.
The 30-year-old realizes that his performance this weekend could go a long way in helping him secure a big-league job next season, even if it is not with the Pirates.
"I consider it an audition," said Figueroa. "You want to show the rest of the 29 teams what you can do."
He'll want to keep the ball in the park, In 2002, he allowed eighteen home runs in 93 innings that included eleven starts and 19 relief appearances. Last year, he allowed eight home runs in 35 innings.
Matt Morris is no slouch when it comes to giving up home runs, either. If you are headed to the park today, bring your glove. The Pirates are pretty due for some massive run-scoring.