There are those such as Mariano Rivera and Darren Oliver who ascend to the majors in orderly fashion and reside there comfortably until the end of their careers, and there are those on the other end of the spectrum such as Todd Redmond, a 39th-round draft choice in 2004, getting his first legitimate shot at a big-league career at the age of 28.
With his fifth major league organization and fourth in the last 14 months, Redmond got the call from the Blue Jays in late May and is capitalizing on the opportunity. On Thursday, he held the New York Yankees to a run on four hits in seven innings for his third victory in four starts.
Adam Lind hit a three-run homer, his 22nd, Anthony Gose had a single, double and homer and scored two runs, and Jose Reyes turned in a 30th multi-hit game in the 6-2 victory at Rogers Centre. The Jays took two of three from the Yankees to temper their wild-card hopes; New York had won 13 of 16 games entering the final series of the season between the two teams.
Drafted by Pittsburgh, Redmond (4-3) has made 205 starts in the minor leagues, spending most of four seasons at the Triple-A level for the Atlanta Braves until they traded him last July to Cincinnati. For the Reds he made one nervous start, got bombed and sent back down to the minors. Baltimore claimed the right-hander off waivers this spring, and Toronto picked him up a week later from the Orioles, also on waivers.
Bidding for a big-league job in 2014, Redmond has impressed manager John Gibbons through his 11 outings as a starter, beginning on July 7.
"He competes, he doesn't give in, nothing rattles him," Gibbons said. "He's a lot like [Mark] Buehrle from the right side. They got the same mellow approach. Good, bad or ugly, they take the ball. You need more of these guys in this game, if you're going to win anything."
Gibbons has seen a lot of players "get lost in the shuffle" in the minors. Redmond had the misfortune of being jammed in the Braves system, behind a loaded pitching staff in the big leagues. Asked if he is exceeding his own expectations, the bearded Redmond said in his matter-of-fact style: "No. I'm just going out there, throw strikes and compete."
He's held opponents to three runs or fewer in 10 of his starts, and in eight of the 11 he's given up only one or no walks. Over his last three starts he's struck out 16 and walked one.
"I just know my ability," Redmond said. "I've got the chance and now I'm just trying to go with it. If you go out there and throw strikes, you can be successful at any level. It's definitely been a good year, actually getting an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, it's a dream come true."
Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer off him for the only Yankees run. The seven innings represented his longest outing of the season. In his prior start, he held the Baltimore Orioles to three hits and a run in 6-1/3 innings.
His mother Kristi Redmond was somewhat more effusive on behalf of her son, prior to his start against the hometown Tampa Bay Rays on Aug. 18.
"It's been a tough road for Todd," Kristi said. "He's gotten the opportunity he has right now through a lot of hard work and some fortunate breaks. It's a blessing how it was able to all come together like this. I think it was by design."
Before the game, Rivera, the all-time saves leader for the Yankees, received a soapstone sculpture and a $10,000 donation to his charitable foundation from the Blue Jays in a pre-game ceremony on Thursday, accompanied on the field by Oliver, fellow closer Casey Janssen, and outfielder Jose Bautista. (Janssen would come on in the ninth with the bases loaded, and retire former Blue Jays Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay for his 32nd save).
Rivera, 43, and Oliver, 42, are retiring after the season. They've pitched a combined 39 seasons in the majors.
"Something you've been playing all your life, you're going to miss it, but it's time to move on now," Oliver said. "It's not like I got hurt or anything. I played longer than I expected to. When I look in the mirror, I'm satisfied with what I see."
Rivera has five World Series rings, Oliver none. But he reach the postseason in seven seasons, appeared in 13 series and pitched in 30 games including five in the World Series with the Rangers in 2010 and 2011.
"I did everything I could to try to get a ring all these years, and it just wasn't meant to be," Oliver said. "A lot of guys never get to the postseason. Just getting to the postseason is fun. I wish everyone had the chance."
For now, Redmond is more than happy to have the chance to pitch for the last-place Blue Jays, in regular-season games that mean little to them, and a whole lot to him.