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Former southwestern Illinois baseball stars making their presence felt on MLB teams

Belleville News-Democrat logoBelleville News-Democrat 9/18/2020 By Dean Criddle, Belleville News-Democrat

Highland native Jake Odorizzi’s fourth start of the ‘20 season didn’t last long Wednesday, but it was enough to spark the Minnesota Twins to a much-needed win in the battle for the AL Central Division title.

A 2008 graduate of Highland High School, Odorizzi pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing one run, in his first outing since Aug. 21 to help the Twins defeat the Chicago White Sox 5-1 in Chicago.

Odorizzi, 30, left the game in the fourth inning after suffering a cut on the index finger of his pitching hand. The injury is the third of the season for Odorizzi, who was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

Expected to be a mainstay on the Twins staff, Odorizzi missed the first 14 days of the season with an intercostal strain. In his third start of the year Aug. 21, Odorizzi was struck in the chest by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Alex Gordon which kept him sidelined until Wednesday.

Odorizzi is currently 0-1 with a 6.59 ERA. For his career — which includes stints with Kansas City and Tampa Bay — Odorizzi is 62-56 with a 3.91 ERA in 192 starts.

Following is a brief look at the five other former metro-east area standouts currently in the big leagues.

Josh Fleming, left-handed pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays

A graduate of Columbia High School who attended Webster University, Fleming, 24, has wasted little time in making himself a factor on the pitching-rich Rays staff.

Since making his debut Aug. 23, Fleming is 3-0 with a 3.47 ERA in five games, including four starts.

The team MVP a year ago while pitching for Montgomery in the Class AA Southern League, the 6-2, 220-pound Fleming was 11-4 with a 3.31 ERA in just under 128 innings.

For his minor league career, Fleming is 22-13 with a 3.40 ERA. He has struck out 214 hitters in 294 innings.

Tanner Houck, right-handed pitcher, Boston Red Sox

A 2014 graduate of Collinsville High School and first round pick of the ‘17 Draft by the Red Sox, Houck made his debut a good one this week when he allowed only two hits in five innings in Boston’s 2-0 win over Miami.

Houck also struck out seven while walking two in picking up the win.

Houck, 24, is ranked as the Boston’s No. 10 prospect. He compiled a 15-20 minor league record but has struck out 243 hitters in 249 innings.

Trevor Richards, right-handed pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays

Optioned to the Rays’ alternative training site last week, Richards, 27, returned to Tampa Bay’s big league roster Wednesday. A Mater Dei graduate who attended Drury College before playing with the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League, Richards is 0-0 with a a 5.94 ERA as a member of the the Rays in 2020.

All of Richards’ appearances this season have been in relief. Richards is 10-21 with a 4.34 ERA in his three-year MLB career. He spent the ‘18 season with the Miami Marlins.

Geoff Hartleib, right-handed pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates

A Highland graduate who played college baseball at Lindenwood University, Hartleib is enjoying some success in his second stint as a member of the Pirates bullpen.

In 17 appearances, Hartleib is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. He has a career MLB record of 1-1 in 46 games.

A 29th round draft choice in 2016, Hartleib, 26, had a minor league mark of 18-10 before making his big league debut last May.

Josh Thole, catcher, New York Yankees

Signed by the Yankees earlier this spring, Thole was traveling with the club as part of its taxi squad in late August but was not expected to make an impact on a New York team which was carrying four catchers on its active roster.

Thole, 33, is a Mater Dei graduate who was taken in the 13th round of the ‘05 draft by the New York Mets.

Thole, who has played for both the Mets and Toronto Blue Jays, has played in 478 major league games and has a career batting average of .242


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