Sunday, January 15, 2017

Clay Carroll (#412)

Clay Carroll was a relief pitcher for 15 seasons (1964-78), playing mostly for the Braves and Reds.

Carroll was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1961, and made his major-league debut in September 1964 pitching in 11 games (20 innings) with an ERA of 1.77.

He began the 1965 season with Milwaukee, but by early June was sent down to their AAA team in Atlanta, returning to the Braves in mid-August. As in 1964, all but 1 of his appearances were in relief.

Clay became a full-time big-leaguer in 1966, leading the NL with 73 games pitched (only 3 starts) and compiling a 8-7 record in 144 innings as the team’s closer, with 11 saves and a 2.37 ERA.

I wonder if all that work in '66 took its toll, because in 1967 his workload dropped to 42 games and 92 innings. His record also fell to 6-12, his ERA ballooned to 5.52, and he spent a short time back in triple-A ball.

By 1968 Cecil Upshaw had inherited the closer role, and Carroll along with pitcher Tony Cloninger and 2nd baseman Woody Woodward were dealt to the Reds for pitchers Milt Pappas and Ted Davidson, and infielder Bob Johnson.

Clay led the Reds' bullpen in saves or wins (or both) every season from 1968 to 1974, was a 2-time All-Star ('71, '72) and led the NL in games and saves in 1972. He also pitched in the post-season in '70, '72, '73, and '75.

In 1975 at age 34, he still maintained the same workload in terms of games and innings, but the save opportunities went to youngsters Rawly Eastwick and Will McEnaney.

After the 1975 season he was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Rich Hinton. A year later, it was on to the Cardinals for pitcher Lerrin LaGrow. Toward the end of the 1977 season he was returned to the White Sox, this time in exchange for 3 players.

Carroll was released by the White Sox in spring training 1978, and was quickly picked up by the Pirates. He played most of that season for the Bucs’ AAA team, only pitching 2 games for the Pirates in the season's final 3 weeks.

Released after the season, he was signed by Milwaukee (this time the Brewers) in April '79 but only played for their AAA team that season.

Carroll is a member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

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