Ronald Thomas Villone Jr. (born January 16, 1970 in Englewood, New Jersey) is a Major League Baseball left-handed relief pitcher with the Washington Nationals. He has not been on the same team for more than two years in his major league career and due to his many baseball travels, some of his teammates have affectionately referred to him as "Suitcase" Villone. In fact, when he joined the Washington Nationals in 2009, he tied Mike Morgan for the record of most franchises played for in MLB (with twelve different teams).
Villone attended the University of Massachusetts and was a two-sport star, playing baseball and football. At 6’-3’’ and 245 pounds, Villone was a tight end when he played football, and he had success with it. In 1990, he was selected as a first team All-Yankee Conference tight end.
His natural strength was on the pitcher’s mound. In 1991, Villone was the recipient of the Atlantic-10 Left Handed Pitcher of the Year. Not only did he pitch for Team USA in 1992, he also was a third-team All American Selection after striking out 89 in just 59 1/3 innings.
Villone was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the first round (14th overall) of the 1992 Major League Baseball Draft. Prior to signing with Seattle, Villone increased his bargaining position while playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He had an impressive debut, striking out 18, and in his next outing, he fanned 14.
In 1993, the Mariners assigned him to Riverside, California, at the time; it was the Advanced-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. He posted respectable numbers, going 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 16 starts. He pitched 83 1/3 innings, allowing 74 hits, walking 62, and striking out 82. These numbers were so good that he earned a promotion to their AA affiliate, Jacksonville. At Jacksonville, he went 3-4 with a 4.38 earned run average in 11 starts. In 63 2/3 innings, Villone allowed a total of 49 hits, 41 walks, and 66 strikeouts. Meanwhile, his walks per nine decreased in Jacksonville, as well as his walks and hits allowed per innings pitched. However, his strikeouts per nine innings pitched increased to 9.33, averaging more than one strikeout per inning.
Ron stayed in Jacksonville for the 1994 season, going 6-7 with a 3.86 earned run average. In 41 games, (only five of them were starts); he pitched 79 1/3 innings, allowing just 56 hits, 19 walks, and 43 strikeouts. Although he was not the full-time closer, Villone compiled eight saves in the 1994 season.
Because of his stellar 1994 campaign, Seattle promoted him, effective at the start of the 1995 season, to their AAA affiliate, Tacoma (still their affiliate today). He had a magnificent start to the 1995 season, going 1-0 with a 0.61 earned run average. In 22 appearances as the full-time closer, Villone saved 13 games and struck out 43 batters.
Villone was recalled from AAA on April 28, 1995, but he struggled. He posted an 0-2 record with a 7.91 earned run average. He walked 23 batters, but struck out 26. He was a victim of the long ball, allowing six home runs.
On July 31, 1995, the Mariners General Manager at the time, Woody Woodward, dealt Villone and Marc Newfield to San Diego in exchange for Greg Keagle and Andy Benes. Villone spent the remainder of the season with the San Diego Padres, going 2-1 with a 4.21 earned run average. In 25 2/3 innings, Villone gave up 24 hits, 11 walks while striking out 37.
He started the 1996 season with San Diego’s AAA Affiliate, Las Vegas (San Diego’s AAA affiliate today is Portland). Villone proved that he could be dominant, so, San Diego called him up. He was just as brilliant with the Padres, going 1-1 in 21 games with a 2.95 earned run average. He pitched 18 1/3 innings, recording 17 hits, 7 walks, and 19 strikeouts.
On July 31, 1996, the Padres shipped Villone, Bryce Florie, and Marc Newfield to the Milwaukee Brewers for Gerald Parent and Greg Vaughn. Despite the trade, Villone still had success in Milwaukee, pitching 24 2/3 innings (23 games), allowing 14 hits, 18 walks, and 9 earned runs (3.28 earned run average).
Ron Villone stayed in the majors for the entire 1997 campaign. He pitched another season for the Milwaukee Brewers, going 1-0 with a 3.42 earned run average. His workload increased, as he pitched in 50 games (52 2/3 innings), giving up 54 hits, and 36 walks. For the second straight year, Villone averaged less than one strikeout per 9 innings. (In 1997, he fanned 40 in 52 2/3 innings)
On December 8, 1997, he was forced to pack his bags, once again, as Milwaukee traded Villone, Ben McDonald, and Mike Fetters to Cleveland. As part of the deal, Jeff Juden and Marquis Grissom went to Milwaukee. This was the third consecutive year that Villone was traded, but this was the first year in which he was not dealt midway through the year.
It was a rough year in 1998 for Ron, especially considering the fact that he split time with Buffalo (Cleveland’s AAA affiliate) and the major-league club (Cleveland Indians). He had a better time in Buffalo, going 2-2 with a 2.01 earned run average in 23 appearances. In 22 1/3 innings, he gave up 20 hits and walked 11. Apparently, he had more velocity, because he struck out 28 batters. Unfortunately, he could not maintain control in Cleveland, as he walked 22 in 27 innings (25 outings). He also gave up 30 hits, and had an earned run average of 6.00.
On April 2, 1999, Cleveland released Ron Villone. At the time, he seemed to hit rock bottom. Three days later, the Cincinnati Reds signed him, and he was back in business as a starting pitcher/long reliever. During the 1999 season, he won nine games, lost seven, and had an earned run average of 4.23. He pitched in 29 games (22 starts) pitching 142 2/3 innings. One hundred fourteen batters reached base via the hit, while 73 reached courtesy of the base on balls. Even though the strikeouts per nine innings went down (4.91), he proved to be effective.
2000 - 2005Edit
In 2000, he was not as effective, yet he posted a .500 record (10-10). He walked more batters (78), struck out less (77), allowed more hits (154), and had a higher earned run average (5.43) than the 1999 season.
On November 8, 2000 (the beginning of the off-season), he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for Jeff Taglienti and Justin Carter. Ron never felt comfortable in the thin air of Colorado, and his numbers show it. As a spot starter and long reliever, he went 1-3 with an inflated 6.36 earned run average. In 22 games (6 starts), he pitched 46 2/3 innings, allowing 56 hits, and 29 walks. On a positive note, he struck out 48.
June 27, 2001 marked the fifth time that Ron Villone was traded. On this occasion, he was dealt to the Houston Astros for Jay Powell. Meanwhile, Villone continued to struggle, as he went 5-7 with a 5.56 earned run average. He continued to be a spot starter/long reliever on the Astros’ pitching staff. In 68 innings, he gave up 77 hits, but lowered his walk total to 24. Thanks to strike three, he sent 65 batters back to the dugout empty-handed.
Ron Villone was granted free agency on November 5, 2001. On February 16, 2002, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed him to a one-year contract. With the Pirates, he went 4-6 with a 5.81 earned run average. Over 45 games (seven starts), he pitched 93 innings, allowed 95 hits, 34 walks, and 55 strikeouts. Villone was granted free agency on October 29, 2002.
Five months later, he signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They assigned him to Tucson, their AAA affiliate. While at Tucson, Ron posted a 1-1 record with a 3.55 earned run average. However, they assigned him to pitch exclusively out of the bullpen. In 25 1/3 innings, he allowed 20 hits, 12 walks, while recording 22 k’s (strikeouts). Much to Villone’s surprise, on May 15, 2003, the Diamondbacks released him.
On May 19, 2003, Astros’ then general manager Gerry Hunsicker announced the signing of Ron Villone to a one-year deal. He was assigned to AAA New Orleans, which is where Villone shined. A 3-1 record and a 1.23 earned run average in 5 starts (29 1/3 innings) earned him a trip to the big leagues, where he went 6-6 with a 4.13 earned run average. All 19 outings with the Astros were starts, amassing 106 2/3 innings. He allowed a total of 91 hits, 48 walks, and 91 strikeouts.
On November 2, 2003, Villone chose to test the free agent market, once again. The Seattle Mariners showed a lot of interest, and signed him to a one-year contract. In fact, Villone had a decent season with them, going 8-6 with a 4.08 earned run average. Again, Villone was forced into a long relief/spot starter role, something that he was accustomed to from his days with Houston, Colorado, and Pittsburgh. In 117 innings, Villone gave up 102 hits, and 64 walks, while striking out 86. However, his contract expired at the end of the season; therefore, he tested free agency once again. Ironically, the Seattle Mariners inked him to a one-year deal on December 19, 2004. In the 2005 season, Ron went 2-3 with a 2.45 earned run average. Used primarily as a lefty specialist, he pitched 40 1/3 innings, allowing 33 hits, 23 walks, and 41 strikeouts.
On Deadline Day 2005 (July 31, 2005), the Mariners sent Ron Villone to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery. As a Marlin, Villone pitched in 27 games (23 2/3 innings), mostly as a lefty specialist. He gave up 24 hits, 12 walks, and 29 strikeouts. Villone struggled in Florida, posting a 6.85 earned run average with the Marlins.
2005 - 2008Edit
In December 2006, Villone rejected a salary arbitration offer from the New York Yankees. This decision cost him over $2MM. Had he accepted the offer, he likely would have earned a raise over his $2.5 million salary in 2006. On February 13, 2007 he was signed to a minor league deal with the Yankees. During spring training in 2007, Ron was given a chance to earn a spot in the Yankee bullpen, but was beat out for the last spot by Sean Henn. However, he was called back up in mid-May.
In December 2007, Villone was named in the Mitchell Report as one of the players linked to steroids. Villone refused to respond to the allegations.
On February 27, 2009, Villone signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets and was invited to spring training. He did not make the team out and was granted his release on March 27. He then signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals on April 10 and was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse. On May 7, Villone's contract was purchased from Syracuse.
On March 15, 2010, the Nationals released Villone.
On April 19, 2010, the Nationals agreed to terms with Villone on a minor league contract.
Villone is married and resides in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife, Brooke. He has a daughter, Megan, who was born on March 26, 1996 and a son, Ronald Thomas III, born on September 14, 1997.
In 2009, while pitching for the Nationals, he has earned the nickname "Light's Out" for his ability to shut the door on opposing team's rallies.
- ↑ MARINERS TAKE EX-BERGENFIELD STAR -- VILLONE PICKED 14TH OVERALL. The Record (Bergen County), June 2, 1992. "The call came a little later than anticipated, but Ron Villone of Bergenfield got what he expected Monday afternoon."
- ↑ Cardinals invite Villone to camp
- ↑ Mets sign Villone to Minors deal
- ↑ Nationals sign left-hander Villone
- ↑ Ron Villone, mlb.com. Accessed March 27, 2009. "Ronald Thomas Villone, Jr... resides in Upper Saddle River, NJ with his wife Brooke"
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Villone player profile at Scout.com
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