Hentgen, '96 Cy Young winner, calls it quits

Updated: July 24, 2004, 4:14 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- Former Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen retired Saturday in the middle of a poor season for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Pat Hentgen
Hentgen

The 35-year-old right-hander is 2-9 with a 6.95 ERA after returning to the Blue Jays last offseason.

"It's been a tough grind for me, mentally and physically," Hentgen said. "I'm not just helping the club like I want to. I always told myself I would retire from baseball if I felt like I couldn't do what I'm used to doing. I think it's the right time."

Hentgen won the 1996 AL Cy Young Award, going 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA. The three-time All-Star spent 14 seasons in the majors, going 131-112 with a 4.32 ERA. He also pitched for St. Louis and Baltimore.

"I'm definitely relieved because it's been on my mind for about a month," said Hentgen, who was dropped from the rotation in June.

Drafted by Toronto in 1986, Hentgen spent his first nine seasons in the majors with the Blue Jays before being traded after the 1999 season to St. Louis.

"I always said when I played here that I'd like to retire as a Blue Jay, and lo and behold I did it," he said.

His teammates gave him a standing ovation when he addressed them before Saturday's game against Tampa Bay.

"He had amazing intensity," slugger Carlos Delgado said. "He's had a remarkable career, a Cy Young, two World Series and an All-Star."

Hentgen had elbow ligament replacement surgery in August 2001. He went 7-8 for Baltimore last season, going 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break.

"Coming back from Tommy John surgery my location was pretty good, and the results were pretty good, but for whatever reason this year I never really located the ball really well," he said. "I tried to do everything I could as far as making adjustments on the mound, but it just wasn't there. My heart is telling me it's time."

Hentgen walked 42 and allowed 90 hits -- including 16 homers -- in 80 1/3 innings this season.

"I was walking down the street yesterday, and somebody said, 'Hang in there man, you're going to be all right,' and I was thinking, 'If you only knew'," Hentgen said.

Hentgen won back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. He says the highlight of his career was watching Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, when the Blue Jays rallied for a 15-14 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the highest-scoring game in postseason history.

"It was by far the highlight," he said. "The atmosphere in the locker room was incredible. It was like high school football, winning the state championship. We hadn't won the World Series yet, but the atmosphere of 25 men together, grinding like that for a long season, that was the highlight."

Hentgen said he doesn't know whether he'll return to baseball as a coach and plans to enjoy the summer with his family.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press