The San Diego Padres had some tough times in the late 80s and early 90s. Throughout that span, they had some of baseball’s best that were somewhat forgotten. It wasn’t simply Tony Gwynn and a crew of castoffs: names like Benito Santiago, Roberto Alomar and Bip Roberts anchored one of the more promising young line-ups in the game. The pitching was anchored by veterans.
One of the more forgotten moves of the late 80s by the Padres was the signing of Bruce Hurst. Hurst was three years removed from an impressive 2-0, 1.96 ERA shutdown World Series performance (that preemptively won him the 1986 WS MVP when everyone thought the Mets were on the verge of losing). He was the perfect number two to the Boston Red Sox ace, Roger Clemens, having gone 18-6 in 1988 with a 3.66 ERA behind Rocket in the rotation. The Padres made Hurst a $5.25 million dollar offer and they got the ace they sorely needed.
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Hurst quickly became one of the elite lefties in the Senior Circuit. The second game he pitched for the Padres in 1989 was a one-hit, thirteen strikeout performance over the Braves. His debut season with the Friars was sensational as he went 15-11 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He led the National League with 10 complete games, two of which were shutouts. The Padres improved their win total by six games and finished in second place to the eventual NL pennant-winning Giants.
Hurst was never the power pitcher, but quickly became known for his ability to paint corners with his ridiculously good off-speed arsenal. His curve was second to none and his slider kept batters on edge. He had mastered a fork ball over the years as well that he was able to be effective against both lefties and righties. When you discussed top lefties in the National League in the early 90s, the conversation was usually Tom Glavine and Bruce Hurst.
Hurst had a great run with the Padres. At the end of the 1992 season, Hurst’s left shoulder finally caught up to him. He had surgery following that ’92 season to repair a tear in his rotator cuff. He would make only 13 more starts in his career as he was never able to recover.
Hurst finished his tenure with the Padres with a 55-38 record, a 3.27 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and 616 strikeouts. While he was never able to return to the postseason, he anchored a perennial 80-plus win staff with Ed Whitson for four solid years. Hurst is still 8th all-time in Padres wins, third in ERA and second in WHIP. Though he was only there a short time, Hurst left his mark forever on the Padres.