Sacramento River Cats

Area baseball beat: Darren Oliver goes from mound to Rangers’ front office

Darren Oliver (Rio Linda High School) spent most of his 25 professional baseball seasons, including 20 in the major leagues, standing 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate. Now, Oliver, 43, is in the Texas Rangers’ front office, working as a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels.

“It was great, a great run,” Oliver told the Toronto Sun following his final appearance last Sept. 29. “But eventually every good thing must come to an end, unfortunately. Mine just happened to end at 42. But that’s all right. It was great.”

Oliver – whose father, Bob Oliver (Highlands, American River), played in the major leagues for parts of eight seasons – had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts in his final major-league appearance, pitching the seventh inning of the Toronto Blue Jays’ season-ending 7-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Oliver finished the 2013 season with a 3.86 ERA.

“I’d rather go out like that than hang on and get beat up on the mound and have the fans boo,” Oliver told SportsNet, a Canadian sports network. “No one likes to go out that way.”

Oliver, a left-hander, had a career major-league record of 118-98 in 766 games and 1,9152/3 innings. He struck out 1,259 and walked 720 in a career that included three stints with the Rangers and time with the Cardinals, Red Sox, Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Mets, Angels and Blue Jays.

“He had some kind of career,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told “Twenty years. Very few guys get to do that. To play a very, very small part and be able to manage him is a pretty neat thing. He was one of the better pitchers in the game for a long time. Longevity in this business is hard to come by, but to do it for that long and be that effective until the very end, that speaks volumes.”

In the minors, Oliver was 24-24 with nine saves and a 3.25 ERA in 424 innings.

Oliver, a third-round selection in 1988 out of Rio Linda who appeared in 132 minor-league games as a starter and reliever, made his major-league debut Sept. 1, 1993, at age 22.

Oliver’s major-league highlights:

• He won10 or more games as a starter five times; his best record was 14-6 with a 4.66 ERA with the Rangers in 1996.

• As the Rangers starter, he threw the first pitch in interleague play against the visiting Giants on June 12, 1997.

• He was the starting and winning pitcher for the Cardinals when Mark McGwire hit his record-tying 61st home run on Sept. 7, 1998.

• In 2004, he was one of just four African American starting pitchers in the majors.

• He made nearly $50 million in his career. His largest one-year deals were $7 million with the Rangers in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2002. In 20 years, he made more than $1 million 13 times and at least $3 million 10 times.

• Oliver and Nolan Ryan played together in 1993 for Texas. Ryan became Oliver’s boss after joining the Rangers’ front office in 2009.

• The Olivers are the only father-son combination to play with Ryan – during different seasons, of course.

Oliver may no longer be suiting up, but he’s still in the game he loves.

Around the bases

• The Giants signed fourth-round pick Logan Webb (Rocklin) to a $600,000

bonus, beating Friday’s deadline.

• Infielder Kristopher Negron (Cosumnes River) was called up by the Cincinnati Reds and has been starting at second base, replacing Brandon Phillips, who had surgery on a torn ligament in his left thumb. Negron also was added to the Reds’ 40-man roster. In his first at-bat last Sunday, he hit a three-run homer off Pittsburgh Pirates starter Francisco Liriano.

• Third baseman J.D. Davis (Elk Grove) and catchers Toby DeMello (Roseville) and David Freitas (Elk Grove, Cosumnes River) have been promoted. Davis went to Quad Cities (Davenport, Iowa) in the Class-A Midwest League, DeMello to High Desert (Adelanto) in the Advanced-A California League and Freitas to Norfolk (Va.) in the Triple-A International League.

• Right-hander Cole Brocker (Sacramento City), who was playing for the Normal (Ill.) CornBelters in the independent Frontier League, was signed by the Atlanta Braves and sent to the Gulf Coast League Braves (Orlando, Fla).

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