The ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random 1971-2019 Philadelphia Phillies players highlights catcher Dane Sardinha, who combines low impact on the 2011 ball club combined with a minimal big-league career.
Sardinha was actually a second round MLB Draft selection two times, first by the Kansas City Royals in 1997 out of high school in his native Hawaii, and then by the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 out of Pepperdine University.
For his outstanding performance during that spring of 2000 at Pepperdine, Sardinha was honored as the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, was named the Baseball America First-Team All-American catcher, and was considered one of the top prospects in the game. Represented by super agent Scott Boras, Sardinha was signed to a six-year guaranteed contract by the Reds and placed on their 40-man roster.
After beginning his professional career at the Low-A level in 2001, Sardinha played the entire 2002 season and began 2003 at Double-A Chattanooga before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Louisville over the second-half of 2003.
Since he was already on that 40-man roster, the Reds promoted Sardinha for depth when rosters expanded in September 2003 and he appeared in his first big-league game. It came on September 6, 2003 at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis against the host Cardinals.
The Reds had cut an early 10-3 deficit that night to 10-6 on a three-run homer from D’Angelo Jimenez in the top of the 5th inning. With two outs and Sean Casey on first base, Reds manager Dave Miley sent the 24-year-old Sardinha up to the plate as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Jason LaRue. It didn’t go well, as Sardinha struck out looking on three pitches against Cards’ righty starter Woody Williams.
Sardinha spent almost the entirety of the 2004-06 seasons back at Louisville, receiving just a one-game 2005 start in mid-June. Then following the 2006 season he became a free agent, signing in December with the Detroit Tigers.
Over the 2008-09 seasons, Sardinha played in 29 games behind the plate in Detroit, mostly during the second half of 2008 and first half of 2009. Once again a free agent following that 2009 season, the Phillies signed the then 30-year-old Sardinha as organizational catching depth on January 2010.
The Phillies used Sardinha for 10 games during the 2010 season during a stretch of June and July when starting catcher Carlos Ruiz was out due to a concussion. Then in the 2011 season, Ruiz would spend time on the DL due to back problems, giving Sardinha another shot.
Sardinha spent from April 30 through mid-June with that record-setting 102-win Phillies ball club during which he got to catch their vaunted ‘Four Aces’ starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt. He made a dozen starts among 15 appearances during that stretch.
By far his best game with that Phillies team came on May 29, 2011 at Citi Field in New York. During a 9-5 loss to the host Mets, Sardinha went 2-4, scoring twice and driving in a run. With the Phillies down 9-2 his 8th inning RBI double scored Ben Francisco. That was the lone extra-base hit and RBI that he would enjoy with the club that season.
However, perhaps his most memorable game had come four days earlier. On May 25, 2011 at Citizens Bank Park against his former Cincinnati Reds team, Sardinha was sent up by manager Charlie Manuel as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Danys Baez in the bottom of the 18th inning of a 4-4 marathon. Sardinha struck out swinging against Carlos Fisher.
He stayed in to catch, and was behind the plate when infielder Wilson Valdez took the mound for the Phillies in the top of the 19th inning. Valdez became a cult hero by getting through the heart of the Cincy batting order of Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, and Jay Bruce without surrendering a hit or run. In the bottom of that frame the Phillies finally won it on a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly that brought home Jimmy Rollins.
Granted free agency again following that 2011 season, Sardinha signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles in February of 2012. Unfortunately he failed his physical and the deal was cancelled. His last action came with the independent Hawaii Stars in 2013.