MIKE CISCO, THE Mount Pleasant product and former South Carolina pitcher, recently was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Los Angeles Angels. In return for Cisco, the Phillies received nothing. Not another player, nor cash, nor even a bag of broken bats.
Cisco is believed to be the first professional player ever traded for nothing.
Rather than being embarrassed by the turn of events, Cisco sees his assignment to the Arkansas Travelers of the Class AA Texas League as another opportunity to one day pitch in the major leagues. He also sees it as one more chance to prove critics (OK, the Phillies as well) that he is a big-league pitching prospect.
“I think that all the adversity you run through makes you who you are in the end,” Cisco said by phone Wednesday in Little Rock. He says he is delighted to be with an organization that believes in him.
Apparently, the Phillies no longer considered Cisco a prospect, despite remarkable numbers he posted in five seasons in the Philadelphia minor-league system. He carries a career 29-22 record and 2.93 earned run average into this season. Over 411 innings, Cisco’s outstanding control and ability to change speeds has resulted in 302 strikeouts and 104 non-intentional walks.
At every step on the Phillies’ ladder, Cisco found solid footing. He split the 2012 season between Reading of the Class AA Eastern League and Lehigh Valley of the Class AAA International League, combining for a 5-3 record and 1.80 ERA as a relief pitcher.
So, when he worked out the afternoon of March 17 at the Phillies’ minor-league complex, Cisco expected to be headed back to Lehigh Valley where he could prove himself once again and perhaps realize his dream of getting an in-season call up to Philadelphia.
Instead, Cisco was summoned from the field to meet in private with Joe Jordan, Philadelphia’s director of player development, and Jordan’s assistant, Steve Noworyta.
“They said my name had been out there, and they said the Angels called and showed interest in me,” Cisco recalls. “They said that I had been traded.”
By 10 p.m., Cisco was in Phoenix as a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization. The following day he met with Scott Servais, the Angels general manager, and Bobby Scales, the club’s director of player development.
Cisco liked what he heard.
“I was happy,” Cisco says. “First of all, any time someone shows an interest in you, that’s a good thing. Me coming to the Angels, with them showing interest, I looked at it as a positive thing.”
Not until a few days later did word reach Cisco that his trade was a bit unusual. Neither club offered an explanation for why the Angels sent nothing for Cisco in return to the Phillies.
“That whole thing was kind of unnecessary, how it all came about,” says Jeff Cisco, Mike’s father. “If they would have just released him, nothing would have been said. Trading somebody and not getting anything for him, it just kind of went out of control.”
Jeff Cisco played parts of three seasons of minor-league baseball in the mid-’80s. He is the son of Galen Cisco, who pitched for seven seasons and was a longtime pitching coach in the major leagues. Mike’s younger brother, Andrew, is a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
So the Cisco family is quite knowledgeable about the ways of professional baseball.
They know how it works for a 36th-round draft pick, one who stands 5-foot-11 and whose fastball tops out at 91 or 92 mph. No matter the results on the field, Mike Cisco will be overlooked at every turn in favor of the high-round pick that stands 6-3 and throws 95 mph.
A million-dollar bonus baby will get chance after chance to prove himself. A late-round pick that gets a $10,000 signing bonus such as Cisco will be released from an organization if his roster spot is needed by someone else.
“Having adversity and having to prove over and over again, and kind of being a perfectionist and not having much leeway, makes for greater mental toughness in the end,” Cisco says.
Cisco believes that toughness will carry him through the season and eventually to Triple-A and the major leagues. Then there will be a bigger story about Cisco, according to his father.
Once in the big leagues, Cisco longs for the day he can pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies. Then he can prove to that organization that he was worth something all along.