Texas Rangers: The rise and return of Darren Oliver

23 Apr 1998: Pitcher Darren Oliver of the Texas Rangers in action during a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at The Ball Park in Arlington, Texas. The Devil Rays defeated the Rangers 12-5. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
23 Apr 1998: Pitcher Darren Oliver of the Texas Rangers in action during a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at The Ball Park in Arlington, Texas. The Devil Rays defeated the Rangers 12-5. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport /
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The Texas Rangers drafted Darren Oliver to help anchor the starting rotation and he did so with great success, but also became a quality reliever on the biggest stage.

In 1988, the Texas Rangers drafted a high school lefty out of Rio Linda High School in California.

His name was Darren Oliver.

Darren Oliver was a 6’3 left-hander from Kansas City, Missouri that was looking for his first taste of the major leagues.

He would get just that on September 1, 1993 against the Boston Red Sox, and issued a walk to the one batter he faced.

Although it was not the most spectacular MLB debut, Darren Oliver would go on to have a successful career as a starter, and an even better career out of the bullpen.

Oliver would spend the first five and a half seasons of his career with the Texas Rangers, and help the 1996 team win its first A.L. West championship.

He went 14-6 with a 4.66 ERA during the ’96 season, starting all 30 games he appeared in and striking out 112 over 173.2 innings pitched.

Texas Rangers reliever Darren Oliver
3 Oct 1996: Pitcher Darren Oliver of the Texas Rangers winds up to throw a pitch during the Rangers 6-3 win over the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio. /

That would be his best season as a starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers, and it would be one of his last.

Halfway through the 1998 season, Darren Oliver, Fernando Tatis Sr. and Mark Little were shipped to St. Louis for prospects Royce Clayton and Todd Stottlemyre.

Oliver went 6-7 with a 6.53 ERA for the Texas Rangers in 1998, but improved when he arrived to St. Louis going 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA.

Most notably, he would be the pitcher to give up Mark McGwire’s record-tying 61st home run that season.

Darren Oliver would spend the 1999 season with the Redbirds, only to return to the Texas Rangers at the turn of the century.

Oliver finished his Cardinals career going 13-13 with a 4.26 ERA over 40 games.

Darren Oliver, now 29-years old, would spend his second stint with the Rangers and it wouldn’t be as successful.

In his second go-around with Texas, Oliver would struggle to a combined 6.72 ERA and a 13-20 record over two years.

After his second stint in Texas, Oliver bounced around the league, pitching for Boston, Colorado, Florida and even finding success in the Houston and New York Mets’ bullpens.

Texas Rangers' Darren Oliver
(J.P. MOCZULSKI/AFP via Getty Images) /

Oliver was moved to the bullpen in Boston during the 2002 season, then moved back into the rotation with Colorado, where he won 13 games for the Rockies in 2003.

After struggling in Florida, he found his groove with the in-state rival Houston Astros.

Oliver appeared in nine games for the Astros, going 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA and only allowing one homer.

After his newfound success as a reliever, Darren Oliver would miss the entire 2005 season after the Rockies cut him out of spring training.

The New York Mets liked what they saw of Oliver in 2004 and brought him in to be a left-handed specialist.

He proved to be useful in the Metropolitans’ bullpen, going 4–1 with a 3.44 ERA in 45 games and 81 innings.

Oliver also got his second taste of postseason baseball in 2006, making a six-inning scoreless relief appearance in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Darren Oliver
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /

Darren Oliver would sign a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2007, and would end up in the history books with one-time teammate Nolan Ryan.

Nolan Ryan and Oliver made history by being the only two players to play for all four of MLB’s original expansion teams (Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, Angels, Mets and Astros).

Oliver would go on to have a successful career with the Halos, being dubbed the “Postseason’s Hidden Hero” in 2009 after going 5-1 with a 2.71 ERA.

In 2010, for the third and final time, Darren Oliver would come back home to the Texas Rangers in what would be his most memorable years in Arlington.

Oliver would play a crucial role in the Rangers postseason successes and back-to-back World Series runs.

Texas Rangers
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

During the 2010 run, Oliver would sport a 2.38 ERA over 64 regular season games in his age-39 season, with a 3.38 ERA in the Rangers’ first World Series appearance.

Oliver would be even better in his age-40 season in 2011, pitching to a 2.29 ERA over 61 games and only allowing one home run all season.

However, he struggled in the 2011 postseason, sporting a combined 6.11 ERA over eight games.

Following the 2011 season, Darren Oliver would go north of the border to Toronto for the final two years of his career and have great success with the Blue Jays.

Oliver posted a 3.15 ERA over 112 games with Toronto from 2012-2013, and was honored in his final game with a montage of career highlights and a scoreless inning in relief with two strikeouts.

He would retire after the game on a high note and complete an outstanding 20-year big league career.

During the 2014 season, Oliver joined the Texas Rangers front office as a special assistant to Jon Daniels, but has also done some broadcasting work for pre- and post game shows on Fox Sports Southwest.

What could be considered a Hall of Fame career by many, Darren Oliver reached the ballot for the first time in 2019, but received less than the necessary 5% to stay on it moving forward.

There is no shame in going 118-98 with a 4.51 ERA over two decades in professional baseball.

When it was all said and done, Darren Oliver had one of the greatest careers in Texas Rangers history, but in baseball history, as well.

He not only was a playoff hero for many teams, but was a driving force in the Texas Rangers’ first postseason run and of their World Series teams.

He was as underrated as they came, but was as good as the biggest names across the sport.

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