Former Red Sox reliever Rheal Cormier dies at 53

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
John Tomase
·2 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Tomase: Remembering Rheal Cormier, a fixture on two Red Sox playoff teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Former Red Sox left-hander Rheal Cormier, a fixture on a pair of postseason teams in Boston, died of pancreatic cancer Monday at age 53.

A native of Moncton, New Brunswick in Canada, Cormier was affectionately known as "Frenchy" during a 16-year career that also included stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Montreal.

Though he was best known for his six seasons in Philadelphia, where he made over 350 appearances in relief, his best teams were in Boston. Acquired from the Cardinals as part of an early-season trade that brought outfielder Mark Whiten to the Red Sox in 1995, Cormier went 7-5 with a 4.07 ERA, joining castoff knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to give the pitching staff an unexpected boost as the Red Sox won a shocking American League East title before being swept by the Indians in the Division Series.

Cormier made 38 appearances and 12 starts in 1995 before being shipped to his home-country Expos in a trade for shortstop Wilfredo Cordero the following offseason.

He rejoined the Red Sox as a free agent in 1999 and made 124 appearances over the next two seasons, throwing 7.2 scoreless innings in six playoff outings vs. the Indians and Yankees.

That success earned him a contract in Philadelphia, where he authored his best individual seasons. He went 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA in 2003 and a year later set a club record for a left-handed pitcher by appearing in 84 games.

He closed out his career in 2008 at age 41 by representing Team Canada in the Beijing Olympics.

"Rheal was one of the most vibrant people I've had the pleasure of knowing," former teammate Jim Thome told MLB.com. "He loved baseball, but he always put his family first. Frenchy was the kind of guy who would do anything for you and I'm lucky to have called him my friend for many years."