Posted at 6:00 AM on April 6, 2008
by David Zingler
In 1999, he tossed a no-hitter and by 2001 he was an All Star. Many (including this observer) thought Eric Milton was going to emerge as the ace of the Minnesota Twins and become a perennial Cy Young candidate. But, he just never took the next step and now the 32-year-old finds himself on the outside looking in.
The Twins acquired Milton in February 1998 as the main piece of the Chuck Knoblauch trade. The former University of Maryland star was the Yankees 1st round pick in 1996 and was on the cusp of the big leagues. Since the Twins were a glorified Triple A outfit at that time, Milton was immediately thrust into the rotation.
After an up-and-down rookie year (8-14, 5.64 ERA in 172 1/3 IP), the young southpaw settled down and posted a respectable 4.49 ERA (the league average was 5.07) and career high 163 strikeouts in 1999. On September 11 of that year, he pitched the 5th no-hitter in Twins history, a 7-0 win over Anaheim.
Milton improved to 13-10 in 2000 and went 15-7 with a career best 4.32 ERA for the resurgent Twins in 2001. He joined Joe Mays and Cristian Guzman at the All Star Game in Seattle that July. It would be the first and only All Star appearance for all three players.
With Johan Santana toiling in obscurity in the Twins bullpen, it was Milton who was tabbed to become their young, left-handed ace. He had a solid, if not frustrating year in 2002, going 13-9 for the AL Central Champs, but seemed stuck in a rut. His ERA jumped up a half-run from '01 (4.84) and he lacked the consistency needed to be a true top-of-the-rotation starter.
After a knee injury limited him to 3 starts in 2003, the Twins shipped the enigmatic hurler to Philadelphia for Carlos Silva and Nick Punto. In the last year of his contract, Milton had his final successful big league season in 2004, posting a 14-6 record with a 4.75 ERA. Following that season, he inked a 3-year, $25+ million contract with Cincinnati.
Milton was a bust for the Reds, going 8-15 with a bloated 6.47 ERA in 2005 and 8-8/5.19 in '06. He began 2007 0-4 before an elbow injury ended his season and his tenure in Cincinnati. Today he is a free agent waiting for the phone to ring.
A Google search shed no light on Milton's current situation; it doesn't appear he is drawing any interest on the market at this point. If anyone has any info, please share.
I think Milton will end up being retired and done in MLB. The most I can find on him is note in the Washington Post where Eric Milton will be a special guest instructor for Frozen Ropes, a baseball training center.