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'Life on the road' has deeper meaning for Drake

Journeyman reliever sets MLB record by joining fifth team this season
MLB.com @castrovince

CLEVELAND -- Now that the lease had been signed and the bags were unpacked, Oliver and Shannon Drake could settle into their suburban digs and get to know their new surroundings. The complex had a pool, was in walking distance of a picturesque park and was a short commute from Progressive Field, where Oliver, who had only recently been designated for assignment by the Brewers before landing with the Indians, was reporting to work.

Maybe this wasn't where the Drakes had expected to spend the summer of 2018, but surely, as she finished arranging the apartment on that day in May, Shannon must have figured this was a fine place to settle in for the rest of the season.

CLEVELAND -- Now that the lease had been signed and the bags were unpacked, Oliver and Shannon Drake could settle into their suburban digs and get to know their new surroundings. The complex had a pool, was in walking distance of a picturesque park and was a short commute from Progressive Field, where Oliver, who had only recently been designated for assignment by the Brewers before landing with the Indians, was reporting to work.

Maybe this wasn't where the Drakes had expected to spend the summer of 2018, but surely, as she finished arranging the apartment on that day in May, Shannon must have figured this was a fine place to settle in for the rest of the season.

That is, until Oliver walked in the door, gear bag in hand.

"Uh," he said to his bride, "we've gotta pack all of this back up."

Yep. DFA'd again.

The nomadic existence of the ballplayer on the Major League roster bubble is an oft-told tale. But never in the game's history has a player lived it quite like Oliver "All Over" Drake. He's been everywhere, man, a Johnny Cash song brought to big league life. And his patient partner has been there for every turn in Oliver's Odyssey.

"We got married this past November," Drake said. "This is her first year living with me. So she's getting a crash course in how it goes."

This is how it has gone:

May 2: DFA'd by the Brewers
May 5: Purchased by the Indians
May 26: DFA'd by the Indians (the day the aforementioned lease was signed)
May 31: Selected off waivers by the Angels
June 16: DFA'd by the Angels
June 19: Outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake
July 6: Promoted to the Angels
July 23: DFA'd by the Angels
July 26: Selected off waivers by the Blue Jays
July 30: DFA'd by the Blue Jays
Aug. 3: Selected off waivers by the Twins

If you've lost track (and who could blame you?) that's five different big league clubs that Drake, who made his Twins debut last weekend, has pitched for this season.

Yes, that is a record*, albeit a dubious one.

*Drake technically shares the distinction with outfielder/first baseman Harry Wheeler, who played for St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore … in 1884. The previous modern-era record of four teams in a single year was held by Willis Hudlin (1940), Mike Kilkenny (1972), Wes Covington (1961), Dave Kingman (1977), Dave Martinez (2000), Dan Miceli (2003), Jose Bautista (2004) and Oswaldo Arcia (2016).

"I've just been in a spot where I'm kind of the guy that's expendable when moves need to be made," said Drake, who first reached the big leagues with the Orioles in 2015. "So I've been hopping all over place. It's a whirlwind, it's tough to keep track of, but it's the baseball life."

One would assume there to be a human toll to all these transactions, some weariness associated with such an unsettled existence.

But the 31-year-old Drake -- a Gardner, Mass., native who has not lost his indelible Bostonian accent at any stop along the way -- actually could not be cheerier in addressing it all.

"I'm just fortunate," he said, "to be able to play baseball."

Drake was drafted by the Orioles out of the Naval Academy in 2008 and made the difficult decision to pursue pro ball over serving his country. Little did he know he'd eventually be moving around even more frequently than a military member. While the constant coming and going has done him no favors in a profession built upon routine and repetition ("My catch partner has been the fence," he said) and has likely contributed to his 7.31 ERA, he and his wife have made the best of a bad situation and learned to travel lean.

"The most impressive thing," he said, "is my wife is down to one suitcase."

They've pared down in every area. Where once they optimistically inhabited apartments, they've learned, instead, to hole up in hotels and Airbnbs. Where once they each had their own car, they eventually shipped both vehicles back to their more permanent offseason place and have decided to just go the rental route wherever and whenever they land. If nothing else, he's compiled a pretty profound jersey collection to hang in his home.

And in his role as baseball's preeminent roaming reliever, Drake has grown accustomed to the introduction circuit, the shaking of hands and the sharing of names. Being the "new guy" is, well, nothing new. He was talking to a Twins teammate in the clubhouse the other day about a podcast he enjoys and made mention that he discovered it, "after the Angels DFA'd me… so the third one." His year can be properly parsed by the itinerant opportunities and endings that have dotted his way.

"I've got a couple buddies who are like, 'Dude, I can't wait to hear at the end of the year how different the organizations are,'" he said. "You wonder how things are run in other places, and I've gotten to find out."

He's with the Twins … today. Having joined the club just a day before a road trip, he's spent all of one night in Minneapolis. With his wife meeting him on the road, Drake had asked the Twins' traveling secretary for the name of the hotel "in Chicago" when the club was actually traveling to Cleveland.

After a while, it all runs together.

Maybe this time, Drake will stick around long enough to get the schedule straight, to memorize some names, to establish a catch partner made of flesh and blood and not chain-linked steel wire.

But if, for some reason, it doesn't work out, he'll do what he's done several other times this year. He'll try to stay loose, he'll try to stay patient, and he'll wait for the call (his is a particularly mobile "mobile phone") telling him where he's headed next.

"Usually, if I get a call and don't recognize the number, I won't answer it," he says. "This year, I've been answering."

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Oliver Drake