Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Random Past Phillie: Erik Plantenberg

Name: Erik John Plantenberg
Position: Relief Pitcher
Born: October 30, 1968 in Renton, Washington
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on November 20, 1996
Phillies Debut: April 3, 1997
Final Phillies Game: June 20, 1997
Uniform Number: 41
Career Elsewhere: Mariners (1993-94)
Unofficial Nickname: "Who the Hell?"

About Erik Plantenberg: There are many obscure players who pass through Major League Baseball. If you blink, you might miss some of them. There are some who manage to stick around for a little while, but you still don't remember much of anything about them. One such unmemorable player would be Erik Plantenberg, a lefty reliever who managed to sneak in 35 appearances for the 1997 Phillies before fading away from the MLB world.

Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 16th round of the 1990 Draft, Plantenberg was plucked by the Seattle Mariners during the minor league phase of the 1992 Rule 5 Draft. He would make his way to the big leagues during the 1993 season, making 20 appearances for the Mariners, posting a 6.52 ERA while recording one save. Plantenberg made six MLB appearances in 1994, tossing seven scoreless innings for Seattle. After the '94 season, Plantenberg was claimed on waivers by the San Diego Padres. He spent the 1995 season in the minors for San Diego, then pitched in the Cleveland Indians' system in 1996. On November 20, 1996, Plantenberg joined the Phillies on a minor league contract.

Most players who sign minor league contracts end up being nothing more than camp bodies, extra guys to carry around for exhibition games. During the spring of 1997, however, Plantenberg found himself in the right place at the right time. The Phillies were short on lefties, and Plantenberg pitched well enough to make the big club out of Spring Training. He would stick around until late June, not necessarily because he pitched so well, but more because there weren't any better options. Plantenberg did not record a decision in 35 appearances (in fact, the aforementioned save he recorded in 1993 was his only decision in 61 career MLB appearances) while posting a 4.91 ERA. On June 22, Plantenberg was sent to the minors, and would never make another MLB appearance. The final three seasons of Plantenberg's pro career were spent bouncing around the farm systems of the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Houston Astros, and Florida Marlins with a couple independent league stops mixed in.

Personal recollection: To be honest, I had no idea Erik Plantenberg pitched in so many games as a Phillie until doing research for this post. I can only recall seeing him pitch in person a couple times. Looking at his stats, Plantenberg only worked 42 and 1/3 innings in 61 MLB appearances. I guess he was what statheads now refer to as a LOOGY, or Lefty One Out GuY.

If you're wondering about the nickname, yeah, it's not very flattering. As I mentioned, I only remember seeing him pitch a couple times. Each time he came in, you were guaranteed to hear someone asking, "Who the hell is Erik Plantenberg?" or "Who the hell is this guy?" You get the idea.

That's my story on Erik Plantenberg. Not a long one, but a story nonetheless. If you have any recollections of your own, feel free to share


  1. Career stats for Erik Plantenberg:

  2. I love these random past Phillies posts.

    When you stop and think about all the guys who toil away in the major (and minor) leagues never achieving more than a modicum of success, I often wonder how hard it is on them to get a taste of that "big time" play then only to fade away into obscurity. And to never become a "superstar" or even an everyday player. There are thousands that pass through the MLB ranks like this and are simply forgotten.

    Is it easier to never have it rather than just barely touch it only to then lose it?

  3. I guess it all depends on the individual. I'm sure some are satisfied they at least got a chance, but for others a taste of honey is worse than none at all