Eduardo Avila Gamboa
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 195 lb.
- School University of California, Davis
- High School Merced High School
- Debut September 2, 2016
- Final Game October 2, 2016
- Born December 21, 1984 in Sacramento, CA USA
Eddie Gamboa is a pitcher who became a knuckleballer in 2013 and made his major league debut at the age of 31 in 2016.
Gamboa was a conventional pitcher when he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 21st round of the 2008 amateur draft out of the University of California, Davis. He was only 1-7 in his first pro season, pitching for the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League in 2008, but had a decent 3.63 ERA and a 41/14 K/W ratio in 62 innings. In 2009, he was undefeated, going 11-0, 1.08 pitching for three different teams after moving to a bullpen role. He started the year with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League, going 6-0, 1.86 in 18 games. He then moved to the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League, where he was 4-0, 0.55 in 14 games, and ended the year with the AA Bowie BaySox, going 1-0 with a virgin ERA in 7 appearances on the mound. He also recorded a save in each of the three stops; he also racked up 75 Ks against only 17 walks in 83 2/3 innings.
Eddie appeared on the verge of making it to the big leagues at that point, but he had trouble taking the next steps. He was back at Bowie at the start of 2010, and was used as a swingman, starting 11 times in 36 appearances. He pitched 98 1/3 innings, with a record of 7-5, 3.75 and 2 saves. It should had been enough to earn his first shot at AAA, but he was again at Bowie in 2011, where he only went 2-6, but with a solid 3.05 ERA in 73 2/3 innings. Still a swingman, he was injured during the season and pitched a couple of games for the Aberdeen IronBirds on a rehabilitation assignment. Still, the Orioles did not see it fit to move him up, and he was again in Bowie when 2012 began. He continued to pitch well in his familiar role and finally got the long-awaited promotion to the AAA Norfolk Tides in mid-May, but was hit hard in 4 games, giving up 13 runs on 20 hits in 16 2/3 innings to go 1-1, 7.12. Something was not right with him, and he was sent to Class A Frederick to make a couple of appearances, then went back to Bowie to finish the year, going 8-4, 3.33 in 23 appearances, including 13 starts there.
Seeing his career stalled, Gamboa decided to change his spots in 2013. He had toyed with the knuckleball since his high school days, but had never considered using it in a game until Hall of Famer Phil Niekro visited the Orioles' minor league camp and asked him to show him his knuckler. He liked what he saw, as did Orioles GM Dan Duquette, and they encouraged Gamboa to use it in games. With Niekro giving him tips and encouragement over the phone, he was throwing it half the time in April, relying on his conventional arsenal the rest of the way, but as he found success, he began to use the knuckler about 75% of the time. He was still at Bowie, but this time was attracting some serious attention. In a late-June start, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Altoona Curve, then in his next start on June 30th, he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader against the Harrisburg Senators, prompting talk that he was once again a prospect. He went a combined 6-11, 4.43 between Bowie and AAA Norfolk, with 114 strikeouts in 142 1/3 innings. He was 4th in the O's chain in losses, tied Parker Bridwell for third in walks (59) and led with 21 wild pitches. He tied for 8th in minor league baseball in wild pitches. While his record was not of the type that jumps out, the Orioles were suitably impressed with his progress in mastering the tricky pitch and issued him an invitation to spring training in 2014, as a way to gauge how close he was to facing major league hitters. However, on June 13th, he was handed a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program after testing positive for testosterone. He was 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 14 games at the time.
Gamboa pitched for the Norfolk Tides in 2015,going 8-11, 4.61 in 26 games, including 19 starts. In 113 1/3 innings, he walked 84 batters and struck out only 79, indicating that he was still not fully in control of the knuckler. The Orioles let him go after the season and he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for 2016. Assigned to the Durham Bulls, he had good success as a swingman, with a record of 6-4 and an excellent 2.68 ERA in 27 games, including 12 starts. This time, his control was fine: in 94 innings, he issued 39 walks and struck out 89 batters. The Rays liked what they saw and called him up to the big league team when rosters expanded on September 1st. He made his debut the next day, facing the Toronto Blue Jays with an 8-2 lead in the 8th inning; he had a bit of a rough time, giving up a single to Josh Donaldson and walking Edwin Encarnacion before recording his first career strikeout against Michael Saunders. However, when he followed that by walking Russell Martin to load the bases, he was pulled from the game in favor of Brad Boxberger; Donaldson ended up scoring, saddling him with one earned run in a third of an inning. At 31, he was the second oldest pitcher to make his big league debut with the Rays, after Jim Morris who had been 35.