Luis Leal Luis Leal

Blue Jays Throwback Thursdays: Luis Leal

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Luis Leal: 51-58, 4.14 over 6 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays

He sure didn’t look like a pitcher…well at least these days he wouldn’t. A bit of a strut on his heavyset frame he had a deliberate slow motion to the plate but that did him alright. Some might consider him a child of expansion, the type of guy who may not have been in the big leagues if not for the Mariners and the Blue Jays. He was a man of talent and of hard work. He never took a start off and relied on his defense to help him win games. He was Luis Enrique Leal Alvarado: Luis Leal.

The young Venezuelan was signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays in 1979 at age 21 and tore it up through the minors. In a season and a half he was a mainstay on the mound for the still struggling Blue Jays squad. He was allowed to make mistakes at the major league level and it showed. He wasn’t the greatest strike thrower and he was very much overweight. Many wondered how long he could maintain his career trajectory given his immense talent….and waistline.

From 1980-1985 he was the middle man in the rotation behind Sir David Stieb and big oooooool’ Jim Clancy. He never pitched for any team other than the Blue Jays and he loved to play. Almost as much as he loved to eat apparently. There is a story that during Mr. Sub Bag Day he got himself out of the game early so he could be the first to munch down on a big ol’ sammich waiting in the clubhouse.

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In 1980 he was the losing pitcher during the Len Barker perfect game and was truly a rookie caught with is eyes blinded by the big lights of the major leagues (his WHIP was 1.73 and he gave up 11 hits per 9 innings…truly the numbers of an expansion team pitcher). The Blue Jays thought well of him and continued to let him take the mound every fourth or fifth day…and he got better.

Leal was no longer a swingman. He started 38 games in 1982 and in that season threw 249 innings, a crazy total considering he had never played ball until the age of fifteen. He never approached those kinds of innings before…or after…

In 1985 he completely fell apart. 13 homers in 67 innings. 33 strikeouts and just fat boring pitches that were being mashed all over the field. His peripherals were nothing great and because of his lack of conditioning he was out of baseball by age 28.

He wasn’t the best and he certainly wasn’t the worst but for 5 years he could call himself a major leaguer thanks to the Blue Jays. I am sure it’s stories like his that brought conditioning and strength coaches to the forefront of any baseball team. He truly was a big man…in size, stature and ability to enjoy what life has given him. He was the pitching coach for Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic a few years ago and stays in the game helping other young kids develop. A great man…mediocre pitcher…sounds like 80% of the major leaguers out there…