Durazo had never played an inning of pro ball in the US before 1999, but by season’s end he had parlayed a two-month tear through National League pitching into a starting job on a playoff team. The native of Hermosillo, Mexico was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 1998 following a stellar season for the Mexican League’s Monterrey Sultans, with whom the Diamondbacks had a working agreement. The left-handed slugger shot through Arizona’s farm system the next year, batting a combined .404 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs in 94 games for Double-A El Paso and Triple-A Tucson.
The Diamondbacks called him up to the big leagues in July 1999 to replace injured outfielder David Dellucci on the roster. Arizona anticipated using Durazo as a pinch-hitter and potential backup outfielder, but his bat had other ideas. He smacked three hits in his first start on July 28th in San Diego, and crushed a 446-foot shot off future teammate Curt Schilling on August 7th for his first major-league home run. As the Diamondbacks streaked towards the NL West title, Durazo supplanted Greg Colbrunn and highly-touted Travis Lee to earn the majority of playing time at first base. For the season he batted .329 with 11 homers in just 52 games, adding a solo home run off the New York Mets’ Masato Yoshii in Game One of the Division Series.
After his meteoric rise in 1999, Durazo’s luck soured in 2000. An injury to his right wrist required two separate operations and three trips to the disabled list, limiting him to just 67 games. Concerned that Durazo might not be fully recovered from the injury, the Diamondbacks signed veteran Mark Grace in December 2000 to handle first base. With Grace blocking his path to a starting spot, Durazo teamed up with Dellucci and Colbrunn to form the major league’s most potent pinch-hitting corps. By late September, however, a batting slump relegated Grace to the bench and given Durazo another shot at claiming the first base job.
Contribute your recollections of Erubiel Durazo by clicking here.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»July 26, 1999:
The Diamondbacks bring up Mexican star Erubiel Durazo, 25, to replace slumping 1B Travis Lee. Durazo, who contract was purchase from Monterrey Sultans last December after he hit .350, tore up the minors (AA El Paso, .403, 14 home run in 64 games; AAA Tucson, .407, 10 home run, 30 G). He'll do the same in ML hitting .329, 11 homers, in 52 games.
»April 26, 2001: Luis Gonzalez bangs two home runs in Arizona's 13-6 win over Atlanta to tie the major-league record for home runs in the month of April with 13 held by Ken Griffey, Jr. His first home run, off Greg Maddux, ties the NL record. Steve Finley also homers off Maddux, a 3-run shot, and adds a triple and single to drive in five runs. Damian Miller has two homers, including a back-to-back shots with Erubiel Durazo in the 8th. Robert Ellis (3–0) is the winner.
»May 29, 2001: The Diamondbacks defeat the Giants, 1-0 in 18 innings with the game lasting five hours and 53 minutes. Erubiel Durazo throws out a runner at home in the 17th, then drives in Steve Finley with a double in the 18th. The loss goes to Ryan Vogelsong, making his ML debut. Vogelsong almost redeems himself with a double in his first ML at bat in the 18th. The two teams combine for 139 plate appearances and their 14 pitchers throw a total of 503 pitches (301 strikes and 202 balls).
»October 21, 2001: The Diamondbacks defeat the Braves, 3-2, to win the NLCS and reach the World Series for the first time in their history. They get to the Series faster than any expansion team in history, doing so in the 4th year of their existence. Randy Johnson gets the win for Arizona. Erubiel Durazo's pinch-hit 2-run home run is the key blow. Craig Counsell is named the NLCS MVP.
»May 17, 2002:
Erubiel Durazo hits three home runs and a double and drives in nine runs for the Diamondbacks as Arizona downs Philadelphia, 12–9. It is Durazo's 2nd game of the season after spending six weeks on the DL with a broken right hamate bone. Phillies 2B Marlon Anderson strokes five hits, including a double.
»December 15, 2002: A four-way trade is announced at the winter meetings in Nashville. The A's get 1B Erubiel Durazo from the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks get P Elmer Dessens, who sported the 5th best ERA (3.03) in the National League, from the Reds. The Reds get SS Felipe Lopez from the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays get Jason Arnold from Oakland.