The ‘Phillies 50’ series gives fans a chance to remember, and in many cases learn about for the first time, the careers of forgotten players. Each team from 1971-2019, representing the years that I have followed the ball club, has one pitcher and one position player who made a minimal contribution to that year’s team and had a minimal impact on Major League Baseball overall spotlighted.
The pitcher chosen to represent the 1996 Philadelphia Phillies fits the bill perfectly. Even the vast majority of fans who were around then and followed the team closely can be excused if they say “Who?” when presented with the name Rafael Quirico. His contributions to the Phillies and MLB were not only minimal, they were also forgettable.
Quirico was a southpaw signed by the New York Yankees at age 17 back in 1987 out of his native Dominican Republic. He first came stateside to pitch in the Yanks minor league system in 1989 and stayed with them through December 1991 when he was left unprotected and chosen by the San Francisco Giants in the Rule 5 Draft.
At the end of 1992 spring training the Giants decided they couldn’t keep him in the big-leagues for the entire season and returned him to the Yankees. Quirico then remained with New York through spring training in 1996, never getting an opportunity to pitch in Major League Baseball.
Released by the Yankees at that point, the Phillies stepped in and signed him at age 25 in April 1996. Quirico enjoyed a solid season split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in the Phillies system during the summer of 1996. He went a combined 5-4 while allowing 70 hits across 95 innings over 18 starts with a 74/37 K:BB ratio at the two levels.
With the club in need of a fresh arm for a twi-night doubleheader in Cincinnati in late June, Quirico got the call to the Phillies where manager Jim Fregosi named him the starting pitcher for the opener on that Tuesday, June 25, 1996.
To say that things didn’t go well for Quirico at Cinergy Field would be an understatement. The host Reds treated him rudely, knocking the southpaw out in the 2nd inning. Before leaving he had allowed seven earned runs on four hits with one strikeout and five walks over 1.2 innings.
It started bad right away and only got worse. Quirico walked the first batter he faced, Eric Owens. The second batter, Bret Boone, then crushed a two-run homer to left-center field. Barry Larkin then singled and Quirico balked him over the second base. He then proceeded to walk Reggie Sanders.
Finally, Quirico retired a batter, registering what would be his lone career strikeout by getting Eric Davis looking. But Chris Sabo then rifled an 0-2 pitch over the left field wall on one hop for a two-run ground rule double,
With the Reds up 4-0, Quirico went back out for the 2nd inning and retired the first two batters. But then he walked Boone, who promptly stole second base. Larking then walked, and both advanced on a passed ball by Phillies catcher Benito Santiago. A walk to Sanders loaded the bases, and Davis cleared them by lining a three-run double into the left-center gap.
Fregosi had seen enough, going to the mound and replacing Quirico with Russ Springer, who was fabulous in relief. Springer tossed 3.1 shutout frames, allowing just one hit while striking out seven. But the damage had been done, and the Reds coasted on those seven early runs to a 9-1 victory.
Quirico would never again take the mound in Major League Baseball. He was returned to the minor leagues by the Phillies and released in mid-August. The Yankees re-signed him three days later and sent him to Double-A Norwich where he remained for the rest of that 1996 season.
A free agent the following off-season, Quirico signed with the Anaheim Angels. The 1997 season split between the High-A and Double-A levels in the Halos farm system would be his last in organized baseball.