Rick Waits has been a member of the Mariners organization since 2010, when he was hired on as their Minor League pitching coordinator. Prior to the 2014 season, he was called up to the majors and became Seattle's pitching coach. Colin actually wrote a really solid piece on Waits about a year ago, detailing a few of the more interesting/memorable parts of his career. I won't repeat very many of the things that Colin talked about in his article, so you should go read that one, too, if you neglected to do so previously.
Moving along... Waits was drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 1970 by the Washington Senators (who would relocate to Texas two years later). He was steadily promoted through the minors, reaching AAA by 1973 at the age of 21 years old. Waits got an exceedingly small cup of coffee with the Rangers at the end of 1973 (1 IP!) but wouldn't return to the majors until after he was traded to Cleveland midway through the 1975 season. While coming up through the minor league ranks, Waits played alongside quite a few successful MLB players, including the likes of Bill Madlock, Larry Gura, and Roy Smalley.
Once he joined the Indians, Waits was immediately added to the big league roster and continued to pitch in the majors for more than a decade. He played for eight and a half seasons in Cleveland and two and a half in Milwaukee, getting work as both a starter (190 GS, mostly earlier in his career) and a reliever (almost 130 relief appearances). At his peak (between '78 and '80), he went three consecutive seasons with 220+ IP, 33+ GS, and averaged 2.4 fWAR/season. Although his career record of 79-92 probably doesn't look too flashy, he was a solid starter throughout much of the late 70s and early 80s, amassing a respectable career fWAR of 14.7.
After his MLB career came to an end, Waits wasn't quite ready to hang up his pitchin' boots, so he went and played ball in Italy between 1987 and 1989 with the Rimini Pirates. He was a player-manager for two of those seasons, won two Italian Federation titles, and was selected as Manager of the Year in 1988. There's a nice little article about Waits over here where he recalls his playing time in Europe:
Of course the total quality of talent in Italy is not as up to par as it is in the United States," Waits said. "Its level is probably anywhere from an A level to a AA minor league level here. You, of course, have some great players over there too—players that probably could have played in the Major Leagues but were never given a chance when they were young. Overall, though, the baseball is the same...
Waits also managed the Parma Angels of the Italian Baseball League in 1993 and 1994. After he returned to the States, Waits continued his career in coaching, joining the Mets organization in 1995. He worked his way up through their minor league system, serving as the pitching coach for New York's Rookie, Advanced-A, AA, and AAA affiliates. In 2003, he was promoted and became the minor league pitching coordinator for the entire Mets organization. This is the same position he held with Seattle after joining the Mariners in 2010.
Shortly after he was pegged as the Mariners pitching coach, Rick Waits gave a fairly thoughtful interview with David Laurila over on FanGraphs (back in December of '13). He talks a bit about some of his coaching philosophies and how he likes to develop pitchers. It's definitely worth perusing if you missed it previously. One of my favorite quotes from the interview is:
I have a lot of old-school in me, just like I have a lot of new-school in me. I’m going to prepare my pitchers, always, to pitch complete games. They’re going to be strong enough, with enough innings in their development, so that when they get to the big leagues they’re ready to go nine.
Now for a few quick bullet points:
- Rick Waits was traded two times during his playing career. In 1975, he was part of a package that brought Gaylord Perry from the Cleveland Indians to the Texas Rangers. Eight years later, in 1983, he was involved in a trade that brought Stormin' Gorman Thomas from Milwaukee to Cleveland.
- In 1976, the Indians used Waits as a pinch runner multiple times. He ended up scoring a total of four runs that season and was even caught stealing once.
- In his entire big-league career, Waits only had a single plate appearance. In 1985, while pitching in relief for Milwaukee in the fifth inning of a game against the Athletics, Waits stepped up to dish to face future Hall of Famer Don Sutton. He struck out looking.
- Over his MLB career, Waits pitched a total of 47 complete games and threw 10 shutouts. His best start probably came in 1979 against the Minnesota Twins. He struck out five and faced just two batters more than the minimum on the way to a 2-0 victory.
Finally, I would be exceedingly remiss if I didn't include this:
Rick Waits seems like a pretty cool dude who is also pretty darn good at what he does. I'm glad he's a coach for the Mariners.