Hamburger Helper, Saints Sign Former Major League HurlerST. PAUL, MN April 11, 2016
The last time Mark Hamburger donned a St. Paul Saints uniform he helped organize a viral Harlem Shake video between the Saints and Sioux City Explorers on the final day of the season in 2013. The rest of that season for Hamburger was no joke setting franchise single-season records that still stand today. The former Major Leaguer has re-signed with the Saints, the team that helped Hamburger resurrect his baseball career.
Hamburger signed with the Saints in 2013 and his incredible season on the field, plus a new focus off of it, got him signed by the team that took a chance on him out of a 2007 tryout camp, the Minnesota Twins. Hamburger has spent the last two seasons in the Twins system, spending all of 2015 at Triple-A Rochester.
He began 2015 as a starter, but after four starts he was moved to the bullpen for his final 41 appearances and was tremendous. As a reliever he went 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA and one save in 41 relief appearances. In 48.0 innings pitched he walked 10 and struck out 43 while opponents hit .246 against him. Overall, he was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and one save in 45 games (four starts). He didn’t allow a run in 36 of 41 relief appearances and allowed more than one run out of relief just once (allowing seven runs in 1.1 innings of relief on June 12). He allowed just one run over 20 relief appearances (21.0 IP) from June 16-August 8 and didn’t allow a run in 12 relief appearances (14.0 IP) from July 3-August 8. He closed out the season on an 11.0 inning scoreless streak.
“Mark is coming off a good season in AAA,” said Saints Manager George Tsamis. “He wants to come in and be a starter for us. We are happy to have him back and expect him to be one of the top starting pitchers in the league.”
In his first full season back in affiliated ball in 2014 Hamburger started at Double-A New Britain and spent eight games there. He was called-up to Triple-A Rochester and pitched in 14 games. Overall he was 4-5 with a 3.69 ERA with two saves in 22 games.
Hamburger was a stalwart at the top of the Saints rotation in his first season pitching solely as a starter in 2013. In 21 starts the hard-throwing right-hander was 6-8 with a 3.28 ERA. Hamburger struck out 120 while walking just 47 and held opposing hitters to a .275 batting average against him.
While finishing the year among the American Association’s leaders in ERA and strikeouts, Hamburger also made sure to leave his mark in the franchise’s record book. He finished 2013 as the single-season leader in strikeouts, innings pitched (149.0), and complete games (5, a record tied in 2015 by Dustin Crenshaw) and is tied with Nick Barnese (2014), Anthony Claggett (2013) and Robert Coe (2012) for most starts made in a season with 21.
Hamburger has an incredible story going from an open tryout with the Minnesota Twins to the Major Leagues in the matter of just four years. After a dominating year in college, going 11-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 2007 at Mesabi Range Community & Technical College, he showed up at the Twins tryout camp and wowed scouts. He was signed to a minor league deal and sent to the Gulf Coast League.
In 2008 Hamburger was a Post-Season Appalachian League All-Star and went 1-2 with a 4.27 ERA and 13 saves with Elizabethton. In August of that season he was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Eddie Guardado. He was sent to Single-A Clinton and between the two stops he went 1-2 with a 3.98 ERA and 16 saves.
In 2010 he was an MiLB Organizational All-Star after an incredible season between Single-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco where he went 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 21 saves in 50 relief appearances. In 65.1 innings pitched he struck out 69 while opponents hit .236 against him.
His big moment came in 2011. After going 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA and four saves in 11 relief appearances at Frisco, Hamburger was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock. He once again made the organization take notice going 7-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 31 games (four starts). On August 30 he was called up to the Major Leagues and made his debut on August 31 in Arlington against the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched a perfect ninth inning of relief getting two ground outs and a fly out. Despite giving up three runs in 2.0 innings in his next outing at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, he did strike out Adrian Gonzalez twice. Overall, Hamburger was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in five games. In 8.0 innings he struck out six while Major League hitters batted just .179 against him.
The Saints have signed 12 players this off-season, seven position players and five pitchers.
The 2016 season begins on Thursday, May 19 at CHS Field with a 7:05 p.m. game against the Gary SouthShore Railcats.