Today’s All-Aughts Team of the Decade entrants will number two. This morning you’re getting the best reliever of the decade as well as one-half of the best relief pitching tandem the Sox have witnessed in a long time. This afternoon, you get the other half. Let’s kick things off this morning with the pitcher that appeared in the most games for the BoSox this decade despite only six years of service.
That’s Mike Timlin, with 394 games appeared in as one of the better setup men the team has ever seen. Also, perhaps one of the best persons the team has witnessed.
A bit of background. Timlin came up with the Toronto Blue Jays at age 25 in 1991 and won two World Series with them over the next two years, recording the final out in 1992. Five years later, he was the Blue Jays’ closer, notching 31 saves. In 1997, on the same day the Red Sox acquired Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, Timlin joined Slocumb in Seattle in a trade for Jose Cruz — and the Seattle denizens were none too happy about it.
While he had, by all indications, a fine stay in Seattle from ’97-’98 on the mound, he departed following the year to sign a big-money contract and close for the Orioles. While his first season was good enough, his second was such a disaster that he was dumped off on the Cardinals midway through 2000. Two years later, at the deadline, he was part of the Cardinals/Phillies swap for Scott Rolen. After the year, he joined Boston.
Timlin quickly established himself as a setup man in Boston, and a good one at that. By the end of the 2003 season, he was a trusted member of the bullpen and emerging as a leader. People called him ‘captain’ in the bullpen, and you could always see Timlin’s camouflage shirt peeking through his jersey. For a 35-year old, he sure was a good pitcher, not allowing a run in the 2003 postseason comprising 10 innings.
In 2004, he was a major, major part of the march to a World Series title and just a year later, led the American League with 81 games and a paltry 2.24 ERA. Two more years followed of typical Timlin numbers, and he captured his fourth World Series title in 2007 at age 41. Through this time, the cracks were beginning to show, but he just kept on rolling. He was part of the musical bullpen brigade that continues to this day and had a stuffed parrot that he liked to trot out. At this time, Timlin was the only active player with four World Series titles without a single one being as a member of the Yankees.
2008 is where Timlin’s major league career ended, posting a 5.66 ERA in 49.1 innings while battling injury and posting a 32/20 K/BB ratio. On September 15, Timlin set the record for most appearances by a right-handed relief pitcher with 1,050 games. (He finished his career with 1,058 games, four as a starter.)
On April 19, 2009, it was “Mike Timlin Day” at Fenway, where Timlin threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He wasn’t done playing, though. He latched on with the Colorado Rockies on a minor league deal in July, but was released a month later. He then officially hung up his cleats.
As a person, Timlin always struck me as an intelligent player with immense faith in God that allowed him to strive to be a nice person every day. He donated $100 dollars to his charity, the Angel Fund, for every game he appeared in.
In a Boston uniform, Timlin racked up a 30-22 record, 3.76 ERA and 27 saves in 409 innings, finishing 119 games. His fastball/sinker combo was very effective, and he mixed in a slider to keep batters honest.
My favorite quote of Timlin’s time in Boston’s career came by an anonymous scout that I remember to this day, and it sums Timlin up in a nutshell: “They said he had no guts in Baltimore. Nobody in Boston says that, do they?”