Kent Mercker may not be one of the most recognizable names in Boston Red Sox baseball history. But, while researching another article, Mercker’s name came up and I recalled that he pitched for the Red Sox. Indeed, Mercker did start five games after being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999. It was a good trade with two minor leaguers – Mike Benham and Mike Matthews. Benham would never make the majors and Mathews would have some minor success with the Cardinals for a couple years.
Meanwhile, Mercker pitched decently enough – having only one real clunker in which he gave up 4 runs in 4 and a third innings. Overall, he pitched to a 3.51 ERA in 25 and two-thirds innings. The Red Sox let Mercker go after the season, after which he went and pitched terribly for the Angels in 2000. However, it turned out he was having medical problems, which resulted in a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage.
So, why is Mercker on a 2001 Topps card, when he pitched for the Red Sox in 1999? That’s because Mercker later signed with the Red Sox in January 2001. But, he was released towards the end of spring training and would sit out the rest of the year. To be fair, it’s remarkable he returned that quickly. The 2001 Topps card is the only card that shows him with the Red Sox, brief as his tenure was, never appearing in another Major League game for Boston.
Mercker would reemerge in 2002 with the Colorado Rockies, although it didn’t go well. But, he’d turn things around and pitch as a decent set-up man for a few more years. Considering his brush with death in 2000, it’s amazing that he even had that second half of his career. All in all, it was a good career, which began with the early 90’s Braves dynasty – including the 1995 World Series win – and ended with a win with the Reds against – ironically – the Atlanta Braves.