Ryne Duren, a three-time All-Star reliever in the 1950s and 1960s known for his blazing fastball, coke-bottle glasses, and effective wildness, has passed away at age 81.
Duren didn’t get his first extended opportunity in the majors until he was 28, but he pitched nine seasons for seven different teams and was a dominant force in the Yankees’ bullpen in 1958 and 1959, combining to post a 1.95 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 152 innings while leading the league in saves.
Duren also walked 86 batters in 152 innings during that span, and control problems plagued the 6-foot-2 right-hander for his entire career. Not always knowing where the ball was going combined with thick glasses and a high-90s fastball made Duren awfully tough to hit, and he famously played up the wildness even further by often intentionally firing his first warmup pitch over the catcher’s head.
Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.
Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.
Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.