Luis Ugueto

February 15 is a lot of things. It is today. On other days, it is not today. It is the day Giuseppe Zangara tried to assassinate FDR and shot Chicago's mayor instead. It is the day Sabena Flight 548 crashed in Belgium. It is the day Richard Feynman died. It is the day Conor Oberst was born. It is the day Johnny Cueto was born. It is the day Luis Ugueto was born. Luis Ugueto was born on this day, back in 1979. Today he is 33 years old for the first time in his life.

You might remember Luis Ugueto as Luis Ugueto. You might remember Luis Ugueto as the "Rule 5 kid." You might not remember Luis Ugueto at all. Luis Ugueto was a Seattle Mariner in 2002, and for a time in 2003.

Luis Ugueto was known as the Rule 5 kid because he was a kid taken in the Rule 5 draft. He was not taken by the Mariners, but the Mariners arranged for him to be taken by the Pirates, who then traded him to the Mariners for some money. This kind of thing happens a lot around the Rule 5 draft. I guess it's good that something happens around the Rule 5 draft.

Ugueto was a young infielder. The Mariners liked him because they had just traded infielder Ramon Vazquez to the Padres in the Ben Davis deal. Well, the Mariners liked him because their scouts liked him, but the Mariners liked him and acquired him because of the Vazquez thing. The Mariners wanted some versatility and legs. They figured Ugueto could provide versatility and legs. The year before, Ugueto played shortstop and second base and stole 22 bases. He also slugged .342 in single-A.

Ugueto went to Arizona, survived camp, and stuck with the team. He stuck with the team almost all year long, save for a DL stint in August. Rule 5 selections frequently end up on the DL for one reason or another, but Ugueto was listed as healthy for quite some time. He returned in September. He was not the Mariners' primary backup infielder - that was Desi Relaford. But Ugueto had a job on the bench.

He started three times. He batted 25 times. He mostly pinch-ran, as the roster had Dan Wilson, John Olerud, Edgar Martinez and Ruben Sierra on it. In his first appearance, he pinch-ran for Sierra and scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth. In his first at bat, he struck out against Kenny Rogers. In his second at bat, he got his first hit, against Ben Weber. He homered off Lou Pote in July. The homer brought the Mariners to within 12 runs.

Though the Mariners were committed to Ugueto, he was a weird fit on the bench, and a lot of people didn't think he was worth keeping around. This was an organization, mind you, that had Willie Bloomquist at the ready. Objectively, Ugueto probably did the 2002 Mariners more harm than good. But the 2002 Mariners finished six games out of the Wild Card so it's not like Ugueto and his roster spot were the difference between playoffs and no playoffs. Just for fun, if Ugueto was the difference between playoffs and no playoffs, we would've been spared the Angels' world championship.

Because Ugueto lasted the season, he remained with the Mariners. He spent most of 2003 in double-A, where he didn't hit. He made 12 Major League appearances. He spent all of 2004 in triple-A, where he hit a little more. Then the Mariners dropped him and he signed with the Royals. Then he was suspended twice for violating baseball's steroid policy and he was dropped by the Royals. He played in Taiwan. He signed with the Twins. He was dropped by the Twins. He played in Italy. He wound up in the indy leagues. He hasn't appeared in the Majors since September 23, 2003, when he pinch-ran for Carlos Guillen, stole a base, and scored the tying run in the ninth against the Angels.

Luis Ugueto is 33. He spent part of last year on the same team as Jose Canseco and Tony Phillips. He's a former infield prospect who made it without really truly making it. He's a Venezuelan whose ability to play baseball allowed him to travel the world. Luis Ugueto has lived a life.

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