Pedro Borbón Jr.

This article was written by Justin Krueger

Pedro Borbon Jr (ATLANTA BRAVES)

Pedro Felix Borbón Marte (also known as Pedro Borbón Jr.) was born on November 15, 1967, in the town of Valverde de Mao, Dominican Republic. He is the son of workhorse relief pitcher Pedro Borbón, a two-time World Series champion with the Big Red Machine and 2010 inductee into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. Of his father’s time with the Reds, Borbón recalled, “I was really young, but even so you don’t forget about a lot of the great players on those teams. That was always in my mind growing up when I knew I wanted to do the same thing my father did. It drove me.”1

During his professional career he batted right-handed and threw left-handed. But he was not a natural born left-hander. As a youth Borbón decided to try his hand at it after seeing his younger brother throwing left-handed. Afterward, he noted, “I just switched.”2

Borbón’s parents divorced when he was 13 years old. At times the relationship with his father was tenuous with extended periods of silence. Of his father, Borbón Jr. iterated, “He was a competitor. That’s one thing I inherited.”3 After his parents’ divorce, he lived with his uncles in New York City, where he graduated from high school. 

He was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 35th round of the 1985 June amateur draft from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He decided not to sign because no signing bonus was offered, “just a plane ticket.”4 The following January he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round of the January draft-secondary phase from Ranger College in Ranger, Texas. Again, he did not sign. Borbón eventually signed his first professional baseball contract as an amateur free agent with the Chicago White Sox on June 4, 1988, at the age of 20.

In his first season of rookie ball with the Gulf Coast League White Sox, Borbón went 5-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 74⅔ innings. In 16 appearances (11 of which were starts), he allowed 52 hits (one home run), and pitched a shutout. He also registered a save. But it was not enough. He was released by the White Sox organization in April 1989. Borbón later recalled that it was because, “They’d said I’d hit my peak.”5

Returning to North Texas after his release, Borbón took a job installing home spas and working at a local chemical plant. When not at work, he took to pitching for a local independent semipro team. It was here that he was scouted by the Atlanta Braves organization. In late August 1989, Borbón signed as a free agent with the Braves. He spent his next nine years in professional baseball with the organization. 

The 1990 season was the best statistical year of his career. Posting a 15-8 record with a 3.00 ERA in 25 starts with two Class-A teams, Borbón had six complete games with two shutouts. He pitched in a career-high 159 innings, surrendering 146 hits. Pitching to contact, Bórbon recorded 113 strikeouts. The season, however, was a tale of opposite results. For the Low-A Burlington Braves, he went 11-3 with a 1.47 ERA, six complete games, and two shutouts. In 97⅔ innings pitched, he surrendered 73 hits. Called up to the High-A Durham Bulls, Borbón struggled to a 4-5 record with a 5.43 ERA in 61⅓ innings in 11 starts. He allowed more than a hit per inning (73).

During the 1991 season Borbón began his transition to the role of relief pitcher. His second season with the Bulls went much better than his first. Before earning an in-season promotion to Double-A Greenville (Southern League), Borbón logged a record of 4-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 91 innings and five saves. In his first taste at Double-A, Borbón made four starts and posted a 0-1 record with a 2.79 ERA.

Borbón pitched 94 innings in 39 games (10 starts) in 1992. His 10 starts were his last for more than a decade. It turned out to be a transitional year for Borbón, who was moving toward becoming a full-time relief pitcher. With a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 3.06, he earned a late-season call-up to Atlanta.

Jumping straight from Double-A, Borbón made his major-league debut with the Braves on October 2, 1992, in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of the San Diego Padres in Atlanta. Borbón stood 6-feet-1 and weighed 205 pounds. He was 24 years old. He entered the game with two outs in the ninth inning and got Fred McGriff out on a foul pop fly into short left field. Two days later he faced the Padres again in the 12th inning of a 3-3 game and gave up the winning run.

Borbón spent most of the 1993 season pitching with the Triple-A Richmond Braves, working exclusively as a reliever. He put together a 5-5 record with a 4.23 ERA in 52 games. While he averaged over a strikeout per inning (95 in 76⅔ innings), he also developed what would become a recurring trend of walking a high volume of batters (42). Once again he earned a September call-up, pitching 1⅔ innings in three games.

After one more season (1994) with Triple-A Richmond (59 games, 80⅔ innings, 2.79 ERA),

1995 was Borbón’s first full season at the major-league level. Pitching in 41 games, he went 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA and two saves. During the 1995 playoffs he experienced ultimate professional success at both an individual and team level. 

During the shortened regular season after the players strike was settled, the Braves posted a record of 90-54 and won the National League East by 21 games over the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, who both finished at 69-75. Borbón pitched one scoreless inning of relief for the Braves in the Division Series against the Colorado Rockies. It was in the eighth inning of the extra-inning Game Three loss. He did not pitch in the four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series. 

Each of the first three games of the 1995 World Series had been close. All the games had been decided by one run as the Braves held a two-games-to-one lead over the Cleveland Indians.

Game Four in Cleveland was a career-defining moment for Borbón. Starting pitcher Steve Avery had pitched six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. Heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Braves were up 5-1 and poised to take a three-games-to-one Series lead. Closer Mark Wohlers came into the game to close out the Indians. Manny Ramirez led off the inning with a home run and Paul Sorrento followed with a double. Manager Bobby Cox turned to Borbón to save the game. It had been 19 days since he last pitched in the postseason. In the regular season, left-handed batters hit .171 against Borbón. Up first for the Indians was left-handed slugger Jim Thome.6

Two decades later, Borbón commented, “I remember running out to the mound and trying to not think about the crowd. I kept my head down and realized I was about to face some really good hitters. I had my best stuff that night.”7

Future Hall of Famer Thome struck out looking. Next, Sandy Alomar Jr. struck out swinging. Leadoff man Kenny Lofton lined out to deep right field to end the game. Borbón had quashed the Indians’ budding momentum and helped put the Braves up three games to one. Later, he admitted, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.”8 Reflecting upon his defining inning, Borbón said, “I was going to get people out by throwing my best pitch and that’s what I had on my mind. Just throw fastballs and if they hit it out, well at least I tried my best.”9 It just happened that that day Borbón was at his best. After the game Indians manager Mike Hargrove lamented, “We knew that Borbón had a reputation for being a little wild. We tried to allow him to do that, but he made the pitches.”10

Reminiscing about it, Borbón said, “It’s something you’ll keep with you the rest of your life.”11 Three days later in Game Six, Tom Glavine pitched Atlanta to its first World Series championship with a dominating eight innings of one-hit ball for a 1-0 victory. The two games pitched were Borbón’s only postseason experience.

The best statistical season of Borbón’s major-league career came the following year. In 1996 he went 3-0 with an ERA of 2.75. In 43 games, he pitched 36 innings and allowed only 26 hits and 7 walks. It was the only year in which Borbón finished with a WHIP (Walks/Hits Per innings pitched) under 1.0 (.917). He missed the end of the 1996 season with an elbow injury.

Borbón also missed the entire 1997 season. The injury required Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and extensive time in rehabilitation. In the offseason Borbón appeared on Saturday Night Live with teammates Gerald Williams and Mark Wohlers and a slew of fellow major leaguers in a skit titled “Baseball Dreams” in which a boy’s dream of meeting major-league ballplayers quickly turns to a nightmare with their uncouth behavior.

A brief attempt at a comeback was waged in the minors during the 1998 season. During spring training, in his first live game action in 19 months, Borbón was pulled after facing only five batters. He experienced pain in his elbow from torn scar tissue from his surgery.12 The injury, it turned out, was not serious. His return to the mound, however, was met with mixed results. He pitched without injury for the rest of the season, but had a 5.52 ERA in 39 games (45⅔ innings) with stops along the way at Braves affiliates in Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. Collectively, Borbón struggled, walking 23 batters and allowing 54 hits. At the end of the season he was granted free agency and his tenure with the Atlanta Braves organization ended unceremoniously. 

In December 1998, at the age of 31, Borbón signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $375,000. During the 1999 season he pitched in 50⅔ innings and allowed 39 hits in a then career-high 70 games. He posted a record of 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA and one save. After the season Borbón was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays with outfielder Raul Mondesi for Shawn Green and minor-leaguer Jorge Nunez. After the trade he and the Blue Jays agreed upon an $800,000 salary for the coming season. It was eventually parlayed into a two-year, $3.2 million extension. 

After his rebound year with the Dodgers, the move to the American League East proved difficult for Borbón. In 59 games with the Blue Jays, he struggled to a 6.48 ERA and a 1-1 record with only one save. In 41⅔ innings he surrendered 45 hits and issued 38 walks. On average he allowed nearly two baserunners an inning. 

The 2001 season in Toronto went much better for Borbón despite a losing record of 2-4. The Blue Jays finished third in the American League East with an 80-82 record, and Borbón dropped his ERA nearly three runs from the previous season, to 3.71. For the second time in his major-league career, he appeared in at least 70 games. His 71 appearances ranked fifth for relievers in the American League. Borbón allowed 48 hits and walked 12 in a career-high 53⅓ innings. Owing in part to his improved control, his WHIP went from 1.992 in 2000 to 1.125 in 2001.

Continued success for Borbón, however, was fleeting. A difficult start to the 2002 season led to a 4.97 ERA and 1-2 record in 16 games with the Blue Jays. And on May 15 Borbón was traded to his hometown Houston Astros as part of a conditional deal. In response to the trade, Borbón said, “It was a shock. When they called me in, I thought they either released me or traded me. … It will be a great opportunity for me to be with my family all year long.”13 The Blue Jays took on $800,000 of his $1.6 million contract to push the trade through.14

The change of scenery to the National League Central Division did not help. A rough start to the 2002 season only got worse. In 56 games with the Astros, Borbón logged 37⅔ innings. Again he struggled to keep runners off the bases. For the season he allowed 41 hits and walked 19. It all resulted in, at the time, a career-high ERA of 5.50 for the season. After the season Borbón was granted free agency by the Astros. In January 2003 he signed a free-agent deal that led to a return to the Dodgers. He was released during spring training.

Hoping to revive his career, Borbón signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Regaining his footing on the mound, he posted a 5-2 record and a 2.08 ERA, and threw two complete games in six starts. His success in independent ball earned Borbón another chance at the major leagues. 

He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals on July 28, 2003. At 35, Borbón made seven appearances for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds before moving to the major-league roster. When he was called up to the Cardinals, they became the fifth major-league team for which he had played. The union did not last long. In seven games he posted a 20.25 ERA with 14 hits allowed in only four innings. He was released on September 9, 2003. It was his final action in the major leagues. 

Over the next few seasons Borbón bounced around the minor leagues with several teams. He signed a free-agent contract with the San Diego Padres in December 2003 but was released during spring training. On May 12, 2004, Borbón signed with the Montreal Expos and was sent to the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers, where he struggled. With the Expos organization less than a month, he was released on June 8. In July he pitched one game for the independent Long Island Ducks.

Borbón began the 2005 season with a return to the Long Island Ducks. For the first time in over a decade, he pitched solely in the role of starter. In seven starts, Borbón logged 47 innings on the way to a 3-3 record and a 5.36 ERA. In June he signed a free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels, but with short and unsuccessful stints at the Double-A Arkansas Travelers and the Triple-A Salt Lake Stingers, Borbón was released on August 12.  

Borbón’s last season playing professional baseball came in 2006: four innings pitched in two games with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. With that, his career as a professional baseball player was over at the age of 38. 

As a left-handed reliever, Borbón was afforded ample chances to pitch professionally for 17 years. In total, he spent parts of nine seasons in the majors and parts of 12 seasons in the minors and independent leagues. He suited up for a total of 17 teams. The opportunities as a left-handed reliever also helped typecast him as a gap reliever. First and foremost, he was used to get out the left-handed bat. Early in his career he had wanted “to be a stopper.”15 

On a few rare occasions, Borbón had the opportunity for some in-game at-bats: seven in the major leagues. A lone hit in 1996 left him with a career batting average of .143. The hit was a single to center field off Mark Guthrie of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the top of the ninth inning of a 6-4 Braves victory on August 4. Borbón also recorded the win in the game.

For his major-league career, Borbón finished with a .500 record at 16-16. He pitched in 368 games, compiled a 4.68 ERA, finished 83 games, and earned six saves. He struck out 224 and allowed 259 hits in 271 innings pitched. His penchant for wildness led him to walk 134, nearly one every two innings. It was all good for a WHIP of 1.45. 

Borbón briefly served as a pitching coach for the Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2007. Since retirement he has also worked as a sports agent. 

Last revised: February 12, 2021

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, information was gathered from Borbón’s Hall of Fame clippings file, Baseball-Reference.com, BaseballAlmanac.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org, as well as from the Albany Times and USA Today.

 

Notes

1 I.J. Rosenberg, “Braves 1995 Recall: Pitcher Pedro Borbon,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 5, 2015. Retrieved from ajc.com/sports/baseball/braves-1995-recall-pitcher-pedro-borbon/lecAiwJCWkjcfkoNmZQtDJ/.

2 Mark Bradley, “Borbon Jr. the Flip Side to His Father,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 30, 1996.

3 Bradley.

4 Bradley.

5 Bradley.

6 Claire Smith, “Young Borbon Inherits Post-Season Spotlight,” New York Times, October 27, 1995.

7 Rosenberg.

8 Bradley.

9 Smith.

10 Smith.

11 Bradley.

12 Associated Press, “Borbon’s Career Not on the Rocks,” New York Post, March 4, 1998.

13 Associated Press, “Jays Trade Borbon,” New York Post, May 17, 2002.

14 “Jays Trade Borbon.”

15 Bradley.


Full Name

Pedro Felix Borbón Marte

Born

November 15, 1967 at Mao, Valverde (D.R.)

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