Yesterday morning, word first broke that former Cubs pitcher Ruben Quevedo had suddenly passed away. He was only 37 years old.
The big righty was one of a seemingly endless assembly line of hyped pitching prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization, signed out of his native Venezuela in 1995. The power arm drew more and more notice as he rose through the Braves chain, especially the notice of GM Andy MacPhail and the Cubs brass. During a lost 1999 season, the Cubs pulled the trigger on a deadline deal of Terry Mulholland and Jose Hernandez, stalwarts on the previous year's Wild Card winning squad, for a trio of Bravo hurlers: Micah Bowie, Joey Nation and, you guessed it, Ruben Quevedo.
However, there was a saying then - "you don't trade pitching with the Braves, they know their stuff too well." It was widely assumed that any pitcher they were willing to part with must have some sort of flaw. It was hard to argue that point, seeing as they had one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pitching rotation of all-time, curated from various sources. It was even harder to argue when we saw how those three names turned out for the Cubs.
Ruben got the call to Chicago in 2000 and was promptly smacked around the NL, to the tune of a 3-10 record with a 7.47 ERA in 88 innings. Even with that performance, the Cubs were still able to turn Ruben into long-time relief ace David Weathers in a trade with the Brewers the following year, during another surprise season of contention.
Unfortunately, the horizon never cleared up for Ruben in Milwaukee. For some pretty horrible Brew Crews, Ruben was dropped into the rotation and his ERA totaled 5.56 from 2001-03, walking almost 5 men per nine innings. The fact that he served up about two home runs per nine innings while in a Brewer uniform certainly didn't help him out.
He was allowed to leave as a free agent after that 2003 season and, despite signing with the Orioles for 2004, never again returned to the Major Leagues.
After one game in the Orioles chain, Ruben called it a career, at least stateside. Returning to his home country, Quevedo played another seven seasons in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League - his days as a prospect long-since over, he played for the love of the game. Things worked out much better for him there, where he worked to a 4.62 ERA in 192.0 innings pitched.
His Major League performance aside, what really struck me about the story was that Ruben had suffered a heart attack in the middle of a company softball game, the company for which he was working in his post-baseball life. It's easy to forget (or ignore) just how fragile life is - one minute he was playing the game he loved, with a group of friends and co-workers, and the next it was all over. You just can't take life for granted.
R.I.P. Ruben Quevedo.