Obituary: Alex Herrera (1979-2023)

RIP to Venezuelan pitcher Alex Herrera, whose professional career took him all around the world and included a couple of stops in Cleveland. He died on February 16 at the age of 43. According to several reports, Herrera had been ill with a heart condition. Herrera played for the Cleveland Indians in 2002 and 2003.

Alexander Jose Herrera was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on November 5, 1979. According to Baseball Reference, he signed with Cleveland on July 4, 1997 as an international free agent, when he was 18 years old. The young left-hander made his North American debut in 2000, pitching at three different levels of Cleveland’s minor leagues. He appeared in a total of 39 games, but the majority of them were with the Class-A Columbus (Ga.) RedStixx of the Sally League. He missed some time with injuries, but Herrera was Columbus’ top reliever when he was healthy. In 20 games for the RedStixx, he had a 4-3 record and 3.43 ERA, with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings. Overall, Herrera struck out 82 batters in 74-1/3 innings in 2000.

Herrera started 2001 with Class-A Kinston, and he dominated the league. In 28 games, he won 4 and saved 3 with a 0.91 ERA in 59-2/3 innings. He had a scoreless streak of 20-1/3 innings during the season and was promoted to Double-A Akron. He spent most of the next two seasons there and was added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster during the 2001-2002 offseason. He started 2002 in the minors but was brought to the majors by Cleveland on May 10, when lefty Ricardo Rincon was away from the team on a family matter. That first stay in the big leagues lasted just a couple of days, and Herrera never got into a game. He had better luck when he was promoted to the majors as a September call-up. In 5 games, he threw 5-1/3 scoreless innings for the Indians. His major-league debut came on September 13, 2002, against Minnesota. Brought into the game in the eighth inning of a 12-5 Cleveland beatdown of the Twins, Herrera struck out Cristian Guzman and David Ortiz. Herrera didn’t allow a base hit until his fourth outing on September 24 — Minnesota’s Torii Hunter doubled off him but was stranded on the bases. The final appearance of Herrera’s rookie campaign came on September 29 against Kansas City. He fanned 3 batters in 1-2/3 innings.

Herrera failed to make the Cleveland roster in spring training of 2003 and started the year with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. After several dominant seasons in the minors, Herrera struggled, and Bisons pitching coach Terry Clark worked with the pitcher to shorten his delivery and lower his leg kick. He responded to the instruction by throwing 2 shutout innings over Ottawa on April 20 to earn his first career Triple-A win. He struck out 4 batters. “We’re getting the high leg kick out of the picture,” Clark said after Herrera’s performance. “He’s been all over the place. For his first time out after working on the side, he did a great job.”

Cleveland brought Herrera back to the major leagues at the end of June, and the lefty continued with his string of scoreless outings. He threw 4-2/3 innings of shutout ball over 4 appearances while the Twins were on the road against Kansas City and Minnesota. He then threw another scoreless inning during a July homestand over 3 games, though he walked a couple of batters in that stretch. Finally, on July 13 against the Chicago White Sox, Herrera entered the game in the eighth inning, with the game tied at 4 and a runner on second base. Herrera walked Carl Everett intentionally to load the bases, struck out Miguel Olivo, and surrendered a 3-run home run to Tony Graffanino. Two of those runs were charged to Herrera, ending a streak of 11-1/3 scoreless innings to start his major-league career. Home runs factored into his final two major-league games as well. He gave up a solo homer to Jason Giambi of the Yankees on July 18 and a 2-run shot by Jorge Posada on the 20th. He failed to retire any batters in that game, and after Ruben Sierra singled and Robin Ventura walked, Herrera was replaced by Jason Boyd. Alfonso Soriano doubled in both runners, so Herrera was charged with 4 runs without recording an out. After that game, he was left with a 9.00 ERA, having given up 7 runs in 7 innings with 3 home runs, 8 walks and 6 strikeouts. He was sent back to Buffalo a short time later and did not return to the major leagues.

In parts of 2 seasons in the majors, Herrera had no record in 15 games. He had a 5.11 ERA, with 10 hits, 9 walks and 11 strikeouts in 12-1/3 innings. Batters hit .213 against him, including .158 in his 2002 season.

Herrera was granted free agency after the 2003 season and signed with the Colorado Rockies. He spent all of 2004 in Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he had a 6-3 record after making 7 starts and 30 relief appearances. He also pitched in the Atlanta and Detroit organizations in 2005 and 2006, without much success. After finishing the 2006 season on a high note (5-2 record, 2.84 ERA) with the North Shore Spirit of the independent Canadian-American League, Herrera became a very well-traveled pitcher. Over the next nine years, he pitched in China, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela, and he also represented Venezuela in the Caribbean Series in 2010-11. He made 2 appearances in the Series as a reliever and allowed 1 run in 4 innings of work. In Herrera’s best season, with the Caribes de Anzoategui in 2012-13, Herrera won all 5 of his decisions in 27 games, which included 3 starts. He had a 2.89 ERA and struck out 25 batters in 37-1/3 innings. Herrera’s final season came in 2014-15, when the 34-year-old lefty played for Caribes and the Cardenales de Lara. In his foreign playing career, Herrera had a 32-37 record with 430 strikeouts and a 4.30 ERA.

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2 thoughts on “Obituary: Alex Herrera (1979-2023)

  1. The obit written for my husband was great. The only problem was the date of death. He died in Feb. 3 not Feb. 4. Otherwise, wonderful. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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