Former Rangers left-hander John Rheinecker, who pitched in 44 major league games over the 2006 and 2007 seasons with Texas, died Tuesday in St. Louis at the age of 38.
A medical examiner’s office spokeswoman said the cause of death was unknown and that toxicology tests would be completed in 8-10 weeks. But a story from ozarkssportszone.com said, “According to family, Rheinecker had been suffering from depression and took his own life.”
No other details were provided.
A high school standout both as a pitcher and hitter at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, Ill., Rheinecker was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the 1998 draft, Rheinecker instead returned to Belleville (Ill.) Area College, now known as Southwestern Illinois. He was drafted again in 2001 out of Missouri State University, going in the first round – 37th overall – to the Oakland Athletics.
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After eight seasons in the minor leagues, in which he was 44-32 with a 3.69 ERA, Rheinecker was part of a three-team trade that sent infielder Freddie Bynum from Oakland to the Chicago Cubs, pitcher Juan Dominguez from Texas to Oakland, and Rheinecker from Oakland to the Rangers. The Cubs also sent pitcher John Koronka and cash to Texas. The deal came down the week before the 2006 season began.
Rheinecker’s major league debut came in Arlington on April 22, 2006 when he pitched four innings and allowed seven hits and two runs with no decision in a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He got his first win in his next start, May 29, scattering four hits over 8 1/3 shutout innings against the Mariners in a 2-0 victory. He would never pitch better.
His major league numbers were 8-9 in 20 starts with a 5.65 ERA over 121 career innings with 68 strikeouts and 47 walks. His career ended after surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
In an odd footnote to Rheinecker’s career, he batted only once in 10 years of professional baseball (majors and minors). It was with Texas on June 28, 2006 at San Francisco, and he was hit by a pitch from Noah Lowry. A story in 2013 by Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs said that Rheinecker was the only player in baseball’s modern era to be hit by a pitch in his only at-bat.