Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bryan Oelkers

Sent: 9/6/11
Received: 9/21/11
Time: 15 Days
Address: Home
Item Sent: 1984 Donruss, 1987 Donruss, 1987 Fleer, 1987 Topps
Item Received: 1984 Donruss, 1987 Donruss, 1987 Fleer, 1987 Topps.  All signed in black Sharpie.

The Twins selected Bryan Oelkers with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 1983 draft.  He was the college baseball pitcher of the year that season, and capped his career at Wichita State with a 30-2 record.  He was a legitimate talent.  After only eight professional games, the Twins rushed him to the big leagues.  He made the opening day roster in 1983 and made his debut on April 9 in Seattle.  He was impressive, pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowing only two runs and three hits en route to a hard-luck loss.  It would be the best start of his big league career.  After giving up two runs in one inning of relief on the Fourth of July his ERA stood at an unsightly 8.65.  He was mercifully optioned to AAA Toledo.  The Twins' top pitching prospect -- their #4 overall pick of the previous season -- had appeared in a Minnesota Twins uniform for the last time.

After scuffling to finish the year with Toledo, Oelkers was demoted to AA Orlando, where he put together the finest professional season of his career.  He went 16-11 with a 3.40 ERA, but a mind-boggling (for a minor league pitcher) 219.2 innings.  I'm sure that contributed to a brutal 1985 season.  Injuries limited him to only 81 innings as he split the season between Orlando and Toledo.  He combined for a 6.44 ERA and 1.827 WHIP.  In the off-season, Oelkers was dealt (along with Ken Schrom) to the Cleveland Indians for Roy Smith and Ramon Romero.  He appeared in 35 games for the '86 Indians, almost exclusively in relief, and was 3-3 with a save and a 4.70 ERA.

He broke in with excitement, but in the end Bryan Oelkers is a classic example of college stardom not necessarily translating to professional success.

Oh, in case you were wondering who else the Twins could have chosen with that #4 pick, the Mets had the fifth pick that year.  They used it on a high school pitcher from Tampa.  Name of Gooden.

I don't mean for this to be a negative post on Oelkers.  I actually have very fond, vivid memories of the buzz surrounding him in the spring of 1983, and it was probably the first time I had ever heard the term "first round pick."  Thank you for the great signatures, Mr. Oelkers!

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