Brothers in arms, left arms that is
Flores siblings reunite in St. Louis, hope to play together
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Randy Flores has pitched in the playoffs and in a World Series, but he's never been more nervous than when he's watching his younger brother, Ron, pitch.
"When you're watching, it's kind of like being in the back seat of an airplane -- just hoping the pilot does his best job because you have no control over it," Randy Flores said. "It's kind of the sensation you get when you're pulling for him, you know, in the gut, tugging at you when you're pulling for your brother."
That deep emotion runs both ways. Ron Flores said he is his brother's biggest cheerleader.
"Big time," Ron said. "I know I'm more nervous when [Randy] pitches than when I am. I'm starting to understand why my parents probably had ulcers. Every one of his outings, especially when I was in Oakland watching him pitch, my hands were more sweaty when he pitched than when I pitched. At least when I pitched, I have a bit of control of the situation."
These two brothers in arms are both lefty relievers who are hoping to become teammates this season for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ron, however, was sent to the Cardinals' Minor League camp on Sunday, which means the brothers' dream of playing together is on hold for now.
If Ron is recalled this season, it would give the Cardinals their first pair of pitchers who are brothers since Alan and Andy Benes last played together seven years ago.
"We hadn't been teammates before," Randy said. "Well, unless you count pickup-basketball games."
There have been at least two dozen pairs of pitching brothers on the same team, most recently Jered and Jeff Weaver with the Angels in 2006. Jeff was with the Cardinals later that year and helped them win a World Series.
"It was a great time, a great experience for me," Jered Weaver recalled. "Being six years apart, we'd never played against each other or on the same team growing up, so that made it really special. When he got the opportunity to play for the Angels, we were really pumped up. Even though it turned out to be a short stint together, to come in and play with him was so important.
"I started hanging out in clubhouses with Jeff when I was 17. To learn what to say, what not to say, how to act, that was really valuable. With him going down the road before me, I was really lucky to have him to learn from."
Jered's emergence as a starter made Jeff expendable, so big brother was dealt to St. Louis.
"You don't want to see it happen like it did," Jered said. "Obviously, there's a business side to it. But it worked out for Jeff in the long run. He went to St. Louis and got some hardware. That was an awesome experience, being there with him through all that. To be able to go down after games, give him a hug ... that was really awesome."
Saddened by Jeff's moving on, Jered came to terms with it, but he'll always cherish the time the two spent as teammates.
"My mom always tells us that everything happens for a reason," Jered said. "Every time we face a tough time in the road, she's always there with a comforting thought. She was definitely right that year, with what happened to Jeff."
Other pitching brothers to have concurrent stints with the same teams include: Pedro and Ramon Martinez; (Dodgers and Red Sox); Mickey and Rick Mahler (Braves); Rick and Paul Reuschel (Cubs); Phil and Joe Niekro (Braves, Yankees); Gaylord and Jim Perry (Indians); and Lindy and Von McDaniel (Cardinals).
There have been others, most notably Dizzy and Paul Dean (Cardinals), but, by and large, pitching brothers on the same staff is uncommon.
Ron almost didn't sign with St. Louis because of his brother's presence.
"It was so exciting in the offseason when I was contemplating signing with the Cardinals, but I almost didn't sign with St. Louis because I thought [Randy's presence] would be the only reason why I would sign with them to begin with," Ron said. "Luckily, the opportunity for a lefty reliever here is good. The combination of it being a good opportunity and having a chance to pitch with Randy was pretty exciting."
Randy said signing with St. Louis made sense for his younger brother. His joy over getting the chance to pitch with Ron is just a bonus.
"You don't get to see a lot of family during the season," Randy said. "We've both been playing ball for a long time. He lives in [Las] Vegas; I live in Arizona. So the chance to compete and be around your brother is something special."
The two talk every day.
"We talk about our outings; we talk a lot about the different scenarios that would get me to the big leagues," Ron said. "We talk about a lot of things. It's good to have someone so close that you can rely on and can be sort of a mentor to you as you make the transition from callup guy to big league guy."
Added Randy: "In this game, it's special to find rapport with somebody you can bounce ideas off about pitching. We're both left-handed; we both have similar career paths and family on top of that. ... It would be tough to have a better combo than that."
Like all brothers, they kid each other, although Ron said Randy has been taking it easy on him. And though it's nerve wracking, there's nothing they like better than watching the other pitch.
"It's more, because you know how bad you want something to go well for someone you care about," Randy said. "The first time I saw him pitch was when he was pitching in high school showcase games in Southern California. Still, even to this day, when I get a chance to watch him I really have to go through some emotions pulling for him."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.