Twins' Radke retires after 12 seasons

Updated: December 20, 2006, 9:48 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Brad Radke could have made millions more as a free agent in baseball's exploding market this winter.

His mind was made up, though, and the Minnesota Twins are losing one of the franchise's most consistent pitchers -- and most important players.

He's Got Game
Brad Radke

Brad Radke, who was 148-139 in his 12-year career, ranks third all-time in games started for the Twins franchise:

Walter Johnson 666
Jim Kaat 443
Brad Radke 377
Bert Blyleven 345
Camilo Pascual 331

"There's not enough money in the world that's going to bring me back," Radke said at a news conference Tuesday to officially announce his retirement after a 12-year career in the majors, all with Minnesota.

Though the 34-year-old right-hander left little doubt during this past season that he would be calling it quits, it wasn't until this summer when he realized his shoulder injury would keep him from coming back.

Radke has pitched with a torn labrum for the last two years, and a stress fracture in the joint added to the pain. Surgery would have been required to continue, and he wasn't interested in a lengthy rehabilitation.

"I just don't want to do it," Radke said. "I'm shot, really."

His voice cracked several times, but a wide, persistent smile overshadowed his watery eyes and he insisted he didn't want to see anybody in the audience crying for him.

"No tears! I don't want to see any tears," he said.

Radke reached 20 wins once, in 1997, and his lone All-Star Game appearance came in 1998. He finished 148-139 with a 4.22 ERA and allowed a lot of home runs for someone who wasn't a power pitcher, but his impact on the team went beyond simple statistics.

Elias Says
Brad Radke made his retirement official at a press conference on Tuesday. Radke, whose last major-league appearance was a Game 3 loss at Oakland in the ALDS finale, made 377 regular-season starts in his career, all for the Twins. The only pitcher in major-league history to end his playing career with a postseason appearance after starting at least 300 games, all for one franchise, was Sandy Koufax (314 major-league starts, all for the Dodgers). Koufax's final appearance was a Game 2 loss in the 1966 World Series.

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His decision to sign a contract extension in the summer of 2000 was the first clear step in a rebuilding process that began shortly after the Twins won the 1991 World Series and didn't finish until they made the playoffs again in 2002.

An easygoing guy whose control was among the best in baseball (he tied for second in the majors in fewest walks per nine innings in 2005), Radke always commanded attention despite his quiet nature by the way he handled himself on the mound, in the clubhouse and in the community.

"Being a teammate now, I like him even more," said rookie reliever Pat Neshek, who grew up in the area and has followed Radke's entire career.

He pitched more than 200 innings in nine seasons and is second in team history with 377 starts, but his work this year was the most memorable for Minnesota even though Johan Santana surpassed him as the staff ace three seasons ago.

Radke was in so much pain down the stretch that he used his left arm for simple around-the-house activities like pouring the milk and brushing his teeth and eventually stopped throwing between starts. After missing more than a month, Radke returned to the mound on Sept. 28 to make what turned out to be his last performance at the Metrodome -- an emotional night that concluded with the normally stoic Radke tearing up in the clubhouse.

From June through September, with his team in need of stability in the rotation, Radke went 8-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 17 starts. That helped the Twins win their division for the fourth time in the last five years, before being swept by the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the playoffs.

"All you want is a guy to go out there and give you everything he's got. I think Rad personified that over and over," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who sat next to Radke at the podium along with general manager Terry Ryan, his agent, Ron Simon, and team president Dave St. Peter.

Said Radke: "If you don't play this game with your heart, you shouldn't be playing. That's the way I went out every five days."

Eager to spend more time with his wife, Heather, and sons Kasey (12) and Ryan (8), Radke was just as adamant about staying retired.

"When I make a decision, I make a decision," he said.

The Twins, who will enter 2007 with several concerns about their rotation, certainly wouldn't mind if Radke was a little wishy-washy on the subject.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press