Starter-turned-reliever came up in 1993, spent last two years with Toronto
TORONTO -- It may not have been the fairytale ending that Darren Oliver was hoping for when he returned for one more season, but from a personal standpoint, it couldn't have had much of a better ending.
The southpaw entered Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Rays in the seventh inning and retired the side to record his final perfect frame. Oliver struck out a pair, including Tampa Bay slugger Evan Longoria on his final Major League pitch.
"It's definitely tough to walk away from the game," Oliver said afterward. "At least I can walk away being almost 43 and still having a good time, enjoying the game and still able to have a pretty good life afterward."
With that final inning behind him, Oliver's 20-year career comes to a close. He finished with 118 wins over 1,915 2/3 innings and a 4.51 ERA.
After beginning his career as a starter then retiring in 2005, Oliver returned a year later as a reliever and became one of the best in the game. Over his final seven seasons beginning in '06, Oliver posted a 31-19 record with a 2.95 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 425 strikeouts in 508 2/3 innings.
"He had some kind of career," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Twenty years -- very few guys get to do that. To play a very small part and get to manage him is a pretty neat thing. One of the better pitchers in the game for a long time. Longevity in this business is hard to come by, but to do it for that long and be that effective until the very end that speaks volumes."
While Oliver's final game had a lot of playoff implications for the Rays, the Blue Jays made sure to embrace the veteran.
The Blue Jays played a video tribute to the 42-year-old at the end of four innings, and was given a standing ovation from both benches as he strolled to the mound from the bullpen for the final time.
"It was great," Oliver said. "A lot of those guys I've played with on the other side, and also played against a lot, especially the Rays in the playoffs in the past couple of years. So I really appreciate it. Something I'll never forget."
The majority of Oliver's career was spent in Texas, playing parts of 10 seasons there, but in his final two in Toronto, he certainly made an impact.
Closer Casey Janssen formed a special relationship with Oliver.
"I am grateful that I was able to spend the last two years with him," Janssen said. "We had a great relationship, and I wish him the best."
"He's a guy that a lot of the young guys look to for advice. Hopefully a lot of younger guys look to him to watch his routine and learn everything about how to be a pro, and hopefully have goals of playing as long as he played."