Mario Soto (baseball)
|Born: July 12, 1956|
Baní, Dominican Republic
|July 21, 1977, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 16, 1988, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Earned run average||3.47|
|Career highlights and awards|
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For most of his career, the Dominican right-hander was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He possessed a hard fastball (clocked in the low-to-mid 90s) and complemented it with a baffling circle changeup, both thrown from the three-quarters position. Soto's changeup was particularly effective against left-handed hitters. On occasion, Soto would also throw a slider, which he turned to more in the latter stage of his career. He less frequently threw a curveball.
On May 12, 1984, Soto came very close to throwing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, with two out in the top of the ninth inning and the Reds up 1–0, outfielder George Hendrick spoiled the no-hitter with a game-tying solo home run. The Reds won the game for Soto in the bottom of the ninth, 2–1.
In 1983, Soto finished second in voting for the National League's Cy Young Award. Philadelphia's John Denny was the winner. Statistically, 1983 and 1984 were Soto's best seasons. He compiled a 35–20 record with a 2.92 earned run average and he established himself as the ace of the Cincinnati Reds' rotation. However, the Reds finished with losing records in both seasons.
In a twelve-season career, all for Cincinnati, he was 100–92 with a 3.47 ERA in 297 games, 224 of them starts. He had 72 career complete games and 13 shutouts. He allowed 667 earned runs and struck out 1,449 batters in 1,730 and 1/3 innings pitched. He also earned four saves (all during the 1980 season).
For all his pitching skills, Soto was known to give up quite a few home runs. On April 29, 1986, against the Montreal Expos, Soto became the 11th pitcher in major league history to surrender four home runs in an inning. The homers were hit by Andre Dawson, Hubie Brooks, Tim Wallach, and Mike Fitzgerald. (This has since been accomplished by 13 more major league pitchers, John Smoltz being among them.)
Mario Soto also had a fiery temper. Two suspensions he earned during the 1984 season exemplified this.
In the first incident, on May 27 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, third baseman Ron Cey hit what was originally ruled a home run down the left field line. Believing the ball had gone foul, Soto and Reds manager Vern Rapp disputed the call, and during the argument, Soto shoved third-base umpire Steve Rippley, who had made the call. After conferring, the umpires changed their decision and ruled it a foul ball, drawing a protest from the Cubs. However, for shoving Rippley, Soto was ejected, prompting him to charge the field. Cubs coach Don Zimmer stepped in front of Rippley to prevent Soto from attacking the umpire, only to himself be tackled by Soto and (inadvertently) catcher Brad Gulden, which triggered a ten-minute brawl. Four days later, National League president Chub Feeney suspended Mario Soto for five games. This game is also notable because Soto's opponent that day was future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who would go on to become a record-setting closer. "Eck", who was making his Cubs debut after being acquired in a trade with the Boston Red Sox (the Red Sox received Bill Buckner and then-minor league middle infielder Mike Brumley), took the loss that day.
In the second incident, on June 16, the Reds were playing the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. Braves slugger Claudell Washington homered in the first inning off Soto. During Washington's second at-bat, Soto hit Washington in the shoulder with a pitch thrown near his head, but Washington only stared at Soto before going to first. On Soto's first pitch of Washington's third at bat, Washington swung and let go of his bat in the direction of first base and walked toward Soto (instead of retrieving the bat). Umpire Lanny Harris attempted to intervene, but Washington threw Harris to the ground. Soto then sucker-punched Washington with the ball in his hand, and both benches cleared. Reds catcher Dann Bilardello wrestled Washington to the ground and Soto threw the ball at Washington, but he struck Braves coach Joe Pignatano's shin instead. Soto was suspended five games and $5,000 for this incident, while Washington received a three-game suspension and a $1,000 fine for his actions against Harris.
In 2001, Soto was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum along with Long Bob Ewing. He has also worked off and on with the team as a pitching coach, specifically helping several Reds pitchers develop a change-up. He currently[when?] works in the Reds' front office. Soto is widely credited throughout the Reds organization as the person who taught Edinson Vólquez and Johnny Cueto their change-ups, which have been go-to strikeout pitches in their brief and successful careers.