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With our inaugural edition of Tigers birthdays I will be looking into the brief Tigers career of pitcher Mel Rojas (born December 10th, 1966). Rojas’ time with the club lasted 26 days during the 1999 season, and included one of the worst pitching performances of all-time.

April 16th, 1999
Rojas is traded with fellow pitcher Dave Mlicki from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Tigers in exchange for minor leaguers Robinson Checo, Aposto Garcia and Richard Roberts. Checo pitches in nine games for the Dodgers in 1999, his final big league season. Garcia and Roberts never make it past AA. Mlicki pitches three more seasons with the Tigers and Houston Astros never having an ERA under 4.50.

April 18th, 1999
With the Tigers leading the New York Yankees 3-1, Rojas enters the top of the sixth relieving C.J. Nitkowski. He gets Shane Spencer to fly-out ending the inning with one pitch. He returns in the seventh, and after giving up a lead-off double to Joe Girardi retires the next three batters.
Rojas’ Tigers ERA: 0.00

April 23rd, 1999
Rojas enters the seventh inning with the Tigers losing 5-0 to the Chicago White Sox. He pitches 1 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out two batters. The Tigers drop to 7-9 on the season with Willie Blair picking up his second loss.
Rojas’ Tigers ERA: 0.00

April 26th, 1999
With the Tigers leading 7-0, Rojas pitches the bottom of the ninth inning against Seattle. He begins the inning by striking out David Segui and Russ Davis. The Mariners are finished off when Rojas gets catcher Tom Lampkin to ground-out to end the game. Brian Moehler picks up his third win and the Tigers are 9-10.
Rojas’ Tigers ERA: 0.00

April 29th, 1999
In the final game of a four game series in Seattle, Rojas relieves Nitkowski in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded and the Tigers leading 6-3. He hits Russ Davis with the first pitch he throws, gets Tom Lampkin to flyout before giving up two singles, a walk and finally a grand slam to Ken Griffey Jr. He gets Edgar Martinez to flyout to finish the fifth inning, the Tigers are losing 12-6. Manager Larry Parrish elects to let Rojas pitch the sixth. The Mariners send nine batters to the plate, and Rojas serves up four hits including back-to-back home runs to David Bell and Griffey Jr before striking out Martinez. The Tigers are now losing 18-6, and would end up losing the game 22-6. Rojas throws 41 pitches in 1 2/3 for 11 earned runs, three home runs, two hit batters and eight hits. Sports Illustrated lists this pitching performance as the fourth worst of the last fifty years.
Rojas’ Tigers ERA: 17.47

May 3rd, 1999
Rojas replaces Blair in the bottom of the third inning against Tampa Bay, with the score tied at six with runners on second and third. A fielder’s choice and single lead to two Devil Rays runs and an 8-6 lead. Rojas returns in the bottom of the fourth, and puts together this amazing string of plays: a walk to Fred McGriff, a hit batter in John Flaherty, a single for Wade Boggs (scoring McGriff), a double to Paul Sorrento (scoring Flaherty) and finally a walk to David Lamb. He leaves the game with the Devil Rays leading 10-6, replaced by Sean Runyan. Runyan gives up four more runs in the inning and the Tigers eventually lose 14-6. Blair is 0-4 and the Tigers drop to 12-14.
Rojas’ Tigers ERA: 22.74

Rojas does not throw another pitch for the Tigers. He is released on May 12th, and signs with the Montreal Expos five days later. His second stint with the Expos (his first was 1990-96) lasts a little over a month, and he is released again on July 3rd. Rojas never pitches in the majors again.

Other Notable December Birthdays
December 6th: Gary Ward (1953)
December 15th: Jim Leyland (1944)
December 18th: Ty Cobb (1886)
December 19th: Al Kaline (1934)
December 23rd: Victor Martinez (1978)
December 25th: Gene Lamont (1946)
December 27th: Rick Porcello (1988)