Mehring Monday: Maldonado Monday

Washington Nationals catcher Carlos Maldonado, a former Timber Rattler, blocks the plate and tags out Lance Berkman in this 2010 game at Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | February 4, 2013 11:25 AM ET

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This week I turn Mehring Monday into Maldonado Monday for an appreciation of former Wisconsin Timber Rattler Carlos Maldonado.  The former Rattlers catcher was just a big part of a Venezuelan League Championship for Magallanes (You can see his homer and RBI double in these highlights of the Game Seven win over at ESPNdeportes).

Carlos L. Maldonado - we throw the "L" in there to differentiate him on the Appleton Professional Baseball Honor Roll from Carlos C. Maldonado, an Appleton Foxes player from 1987 who also made it to the Major Leagues - was signed by the Seattle Mariners out of Venezuela as an international free agent in 1995 when he was sixteen years old.

The catcher would play for the Mariners affiliate in the Arizona League during the 1996 season.  He would be eighteen when he first suited up with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 1997.  He played 97 games and hit .190 with no homers and 25 RBI in that 1997 season.

The following year, Maldonado spent most of his time (42 games) with Everett in the Northwest League.  But, he would also appear in seven games with the Rattlers and in three games with Tacoma, Seattle's Pacific Coast League team.

Maldonado spent all of the 1999 season with the Rattlers and appeared in 92 games.  His batting average improved to .308, but he was homerless in his games in the Midwest League.

In 2000, he began Spring Training with the Mariners, but he did not finish with them.  On March 21, Seattle traded him to the Houston Astros for Carlos Hernandez.

The move helped Maldonado climb the organizational ladder.   He made the jump to AA and played with Round Rock, the Texas League affiliate of the Astros.  Maldonado played for the Express in 2000 and 2001.  He began the 2002 season in New Orleans, Houston's Pacific Coast League team, and played twelve games for the Zephyrs.  Then, he went back down to Round Rock and appeared in 47 games with the Express.  Maldonado was granted free agency in October of 2002.

The Chicago White Sox signed him in January of 2003 and assigned him to Birmingham.  He spent two productive seasons with the Barons in 2003 and 2004 as he appeared in 230 games, hit 18 home runs, and drove in 131 runs.  But, his run with the White Sox organization ended when he was granted free agency in October of 2004.

This skips a step because Maldonado was also allowed free agency after the 2003 season, but he re-signed with Chicago again in November of that year.

The second time the White Sox set Maldonado free, he did not return to them.  Less than a month later, Maldonado was in the Pirates organization.  This would be his step to the major leagues.

The Pirates sent Maldonado to Altoona, their Eastern League affiliate, to start the season.  He would play 82 games for the Curve in 2005 and rejoined them to start 2006.  A few games into that year, Pittsburgh promoted Maldonado to Indianapolis, their International League affiliate. 

In his first extended look at AAA, Maldonado hit .283 over 103 games with six homers and 47 RBI.  He played his final game with Indy on September 4.

Four days later Maldonado made his major league debut.

On September 8, 2006, Maldonado pinch-hit for Ronny Paulino with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning of a game the Pirates were losing 9-1 at Cincinnati.  Maldonado singled to center on the first pitch he saw as a major league and picked up the hit off Gary Majewski.

On September 10, Maldonado made his first start as a major league catcher and went 0-for-3 in a 4-2 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati.

He played a total of eight games with the Pirates in 2006 and went 2-for-19.

Maldonado spent a brief amount of time (three games) with Altoona and more time (46 games) with Indianapolis in 2007.  Then, he was called back to the major leagues in August. 

Not only did he play in more games (13) this time around with the Pirates, he also hit his first major league home run.   It happened in a game at Houston - against one of the teams that had let him get away - on September 16.  Maldonado liked this so much he would homer again in his next start, a game on September 20 at San Diego.

But, at the end of the season, the Pirates granted Maldonado free agency again.  He would re-sign with Pittsburgh less than a month later.

It would take Maldonado almost three years and two other organizations to get back to The Show.

He played just 46 games with Indianapolis in 2008.  Then, after another round of free agency, he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2009 season.  He was sent to Pawtucket, Boston's International League affiliate, but only played in 24 games with them before being released on August 3.

This is where the story usually ends for players.  Not for Carlos Maldonado.  He went to Venezuela and played winter ball for Leones del Caracas.  Then, he played for Venezuela in the Caribbean Series.  He played well enough to be noticed and got another chance with another organization.

He signed with the Washington Nationals late (March 20) in Spring Training of 2010.  He was sent to Syracuse, another International League affiliate, to start the season. 

Due to injuries to Nationals catchers, Maldonado got called up to the big leagues again in late May.

He got into a game against San Francisco on May 27 of 2010.  He would appear in four games with the Nationals - including a game at Houston on May 31 in which he hit a three-run home run as part of a nine run seventh inning, before he got hurt and needed to go on the disabled list.

From there it was all the way down to the Gulf Coast League for a brief rehabilitation assignment before going back to Syracuse to conclude the season.

He spent all of 2011 with the Syracuse and opened the 2012 season with the Chiefs.  Then, due to a rash of injuries to Washington catchers, he got another call to the Nationals and played four games with them from May 19 through May 29.

This passage from an article in The Washington Post about his 2012 callup may explain Maldonado has been around for so long:

While he has only 25 games of major league experience, including four with the Nationals in 2010, the other catchers look up to him, by far the oldest member of the group. During spring training, Maldonado sits at the center of a circle as young players listen to him.

After the injury, there was a brief stop in Potomac, Washington's Carolina League affiliate, before going back to Syracuse to end the season.

The Nationals have granted Maldonado free agency after each of the last three seasons, but Maldonado has quickly re-signed with Washington each time.

Maldonado has been asked to spring training by Washington as a Non-Roster Invite for 2013.

In all, Maldonado has played seventeen seasons for fifteen different teams in eleven different leagues over six organizations.

Plus, Maldonado has played in Venezuela each winter since 2006 with Caribes (2006-2007), Caracas (2007-2010), Zulia (2011), and Magallanes (2012).

That's amazing.

Carlos Maldonado just keeps playing a game that he loves and Appleton, Wisconsin was one of his first steps in the professional game.

Keep going, Carlos.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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