Any big league bullpen is a hodge-podge of players. There are the golden arms that have been ear-marked to close because of their lightning fastball. There are the set-up men that are either young up-and coming closers, or former closers on their way out. You have your side-armers, spit-ballers, knuckleballers, LOOGY’s, long-relievers, spot-relievers and nowhere-else-to-put-yous. Garnering the last spot in the All-Aught Indians bullpen is just that nowhere-else-to-put-you in Steve Karsay.
Karsay’s name likely isn’t one that will come up on your list of top-notch Indians’ relievers, although he was exactly that. Karsay was mostly lost in the shuffle of a career marred by injuries and untapped potential. He started in 1993 as a 21-year-old gunslinger in a late season call-up by the Oakland A’s. He had skipped Triple A and pitched 49 solid innings before manager Tony LaRussa shut him down before his 50th inning to keep his rookie-eligibility. The following season, Karsay made four electric starts before elbow pain ended his season. He didn’t pitch again in the majors until 1997, after two elbow surgeries, including Tommy John in 1995.
The Indians acquired Karsay in late-1997 as a potential starter for the 1998 season, but he lost the job as the #5 starter to some kid named Bartolo Colon. Karsay started in the rotation in Buffalo, but twice ended up on the DL before being activated by the Indians on the last day in July as a reliever. After another start and relief appearance, he was sent down to Buffalo in late August, only to be recalled in late September strictly as a reliever, and was shelled to the tune of an 8.31 ERA. It wasn’t looking good, but Karsay felt fantastic healthwise, and was really beginning to find himself. He’d begun playing with a Cleveland staple, the splitter, and was slowly re-discovering his fastball, that was now being clocked in the mid-90’s.