Four years after his last minor league appearance and eight years since he last saw the majors, right-hander Dennis Tankersley is attempting a comeback. He signed a minor league deal with the Padres, his former team.
Tankersley was just a 38th-round pick of the Red Sox in 1998, but given his early success, it appalled many when he was traded to San Diego for Ed Sprague two years later. He quickly emerged as a top arm in the San Diego system, going 10-4 with a 1.98 ERA and a 173/44 K/BB ratio in three stops in 2001. Baseball America rated him the franchise’s No. 2 prospect entering 2002, sandwiching him between Sean Burroughs and Jake Peavy.
Unfortunately, Tankersley never could establish himself in the majors. He went 1-4 with an 8.06 ERA in nine starts and eight relief appearances in 2002. In 2003, he had one disastrous appearance with the Padres, giving up seven runs without retiring a batter. He was a bit more successful in 2004, but he still had an 0-5 record to go along with his 5.14 ERA in six starts and three relief appearances. Overall, he was 1-10 with a 7.61 ERA and a 68/61 K/BB ratio in 86 1/3 innings.
After 2004, Tankersley spent four more seasons in Triple-A rotations, never bettering a 4.00 ERA in any of them. He was last seen going 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in 2008.
Tankersley is still just 33, and if his arm is sound, there’s little harm in giving him a shot. He’ll probably top out in Triple-A again, but with pitchers, one never knows for sure. Just ask the Giants about Ryan Vogelsong.