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Troy Eugene Percival (born August 9, 1969 in Fontana, California) is a Major League Baseball relief pitcher who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays. He spent most of his career with the California/Anaheim Angels and was a key member of that franchise's 2002 World Series championship team.
He started playing baseball at Moreno Valley Youth Federation (MVYF) and was coached by Bill Yearsley in his early years. Percival played on the Moreno Valley High School baseball team, before attending the University of California, Riverside. He was then drafted by the California Angels in the 6th round of the 1990 amateur draft as a catcher. He batted .200 in his only season as a catcher and was converted to a pitcher when coaches noticed that his return throws to the mound were actually faster than the pitches he caught. He made his Major League debut as a reliever in 1995, and was mostly used as a setup man for Lee Smith.
In 1996, he became the regular closer for the Angels and had 36 saves with 100 strikeouts in 74 innings. He is one of only six pitchers in the Angels' 44-year history to strike out at least 100 batters in a season without starting a game. The others are Mark Clear (105, 1980), De Wayne Buice (109, 1987), Bryan Harvey (101, 1991) Scot Shields (109, 2004) and Francisco Rodriguez (123, 2004).
He had a career-high 42 saves in 1998, and enjoyed his best season in 2002 with a 4-1 record, 40 saves, 68 strikeouts, and a 1.92 ERA.
A four-time All-Star, Percival has compiled a 29-38 record with a 2.99 ERA in 586.2 innings. His 316 saves put him at 12th on the all-time list in Major League Baseball. However, his strikeouts per nine innings have gone down considerably from when he was an elite closer. In 2001, his K/9 rate was 11.08. In 2002, 10.86. In 2003, 8.76. And in 2004, it dropped all the way to 5.98. His fastball, once clocked consistently at 96 -100 MPH, was down to about 92 - 93 MPH in 2004, due to a degenerative hip condition that first appeared in 2003, which forced him to alter his pitching delivery.
Percival's contract with the Angels expired in 2004 and he became a free agent at the end of that season. Rather than bring Percival back, the Angels decided to turn to young phenom Francisco Rodríguez to close, motivated largely by Rodriguez's much lower price tag and concerns about Percival's age and health. The Angels offered to negotiate a reduced role (at a correspondingly reduced salary) for Percival to return as a setup man, but Percival decided to seek opportunities elsewhere that would allow him to remain a closer.
Troy Percival was known to have had an addiction to caffeine in all forms and it interferred with his career as a MLB closer. He once drank 14 cups of coffee during a game and was too jittery to pitch. This was previous to the Angels relocating to become the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, when they were located in California and were called the California Angels.
Percival signed with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent for the 2005 season. However, after a mediocre start to his career at Comerica Park, during which he converted 8 saves from 11 opportunities and posted an ERA of 5.76, Percival suffered a serious injury to his right forearm in early July. The severity of the injury ended his season, as well put the rest of his career in doubt.
After attempting to recuperate, Percival reported to spring training for the Tigers in 2006. However, on his first outing he again suffered significant pain and left the team. After spending the entire 2006 season on the Tigers' disabled list and working for the team as an advance scout, Percival's contract with the Tigers expired at the end of the 2006 season.
Though the he didn't pitch a game during the Tigers' run to the American League Championship, the team voted Percival a ring and a full playoff share. Appreciative of this gesture, he used the money to buy a suite at Comerica Park for the Tigers' wives.
On January 19, 2007, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hired Percival as a special assignment pitching instructor. However, believing his arm to have finally healed, he requested his release from his minor league coaching contract to pursue a comeback. Percival signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and joined the big league team on June 26, 2007. Percival is the fourth member of the 2002 championship Angels team to play for the 2007 Cardinals, joining David Eckstein, Scott Spiezio, and Adam Kennedy, as well as joining former Angels teammate Jim Edmonds.
Troy Percival made his first appearance in the Majors since 2005 on June 29, 2007, against the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out the first batter he faced, David Ross, and was also credited with the win.
On November 29, 2007, he signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. The contract contained up to $4 million in performance-based incentives. Rays manager Joe Maddon has said that Percival will be the closer in 2008.
- ↑ The Official Site of The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Official Info: Press Release
- ↑ The Official Site of Major League Baseball: News: Major League Baseball News
- ↑ The Official Site of The St. Louis Cardinals: News: St. Louis Cardinals News
- ↑ ESPN - Rays, reliever Percival sign multi-year deal with incentives - MLB
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube