With each recorded out, the legend of Victor Arano grows. It sprouted a little more Thursday night, when the 23-year-old reliever from Veracruz, Mexico, worked another perfect inning, closing out a 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates with a strikeout of Josh Bell.
That brought Arano's total of consecutive outs to 32 – the longest by a Phillies pitcher since Rick Wise retired 32 in a row in September 1971, according to Elias. Arano has not allowed a baserunner in his last nine appearances and his career line after 17 appearances is 19 innings, six hits, two earned runs, four walks, and 23 strikeouts. According to Elias,
As impressive as all that is, Arano can still walk around Center City without being recognized.
"I really like the city," Arano said through a team interpreter. "I like walking downtown. I'm still a rookie, so nobody knows me. I guess in a couple of years it will be different."
Keep recording outs the way he is right now and it could be different in a couple of weeks. Even then, however, Victor Arano knows his star will not be as bright as his late uncle's down in his native Mexico.
"Ramon Arano actually is a legend in Mexico," Victor said after describing how influential his family has been during his career.
Ramon Arano died at the age of 72 in 2012, but only after he had pitched in six decades in the Mexican League, the country's triple-A baseball league. According to his obituary and baseballreference.com, his career started in 1959 and he last pitched professionally in 2001, at the age of 61. Pitching for Veracruz, he logged 3.1 innings and allowed one run on four hits and a walk in that final appearance.
Asked about his uncle's senior-citizen exploits, Victor Arano smiled and laughed. He was only 6 and doesn't remember it, but the stories he's heard so many times from his family and others affiliated with the Mexican League make it feel as if he was there.
"He pitched when he was 61 years old and he wanted to keep pitching, but they wouldn't let him pitch anymore," Victor said.
Pitching primarily for Diablos Rojos of Mexico City, Ramon Arano won 334 games and had a career ERA of 3.26, according to his obituary. At the age of 18, Victor Arano had signed to pitch for Diablos Rojos when another Mexican legend discovered him and brought him to the United States.
Mike Brito, the well-dressed man in a Panama hat so often seen holding a radar gun in the stands behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, went to Mexico to see the 18-year-old Arano pitch. Brito, a native of Cuba who later played ball in Mexico, is best known for signing Fernando Valenzuela, the greatest of all Mexican pitchers.
"He came to watch some games and practices and he liked me, so he decided to sign me," Arano said. "My signing bonus was $125,000."
Understandably, every Mexican-born player is attracted to the Dodgers because they are Fernando's team – even though Valenzuela did make cameo appearances with five others, including the Phillies in 1994.
"Oh, yes, definitely," Arano said. "The Dodgers are a very popular team in Mexico because of Fernando Valenzuela. He was a great, great pitcher. People in the States love him and people in Mexico love him."
Arano's career with the Dodgers came to a halt near the end of his second minor-league season. In what could go down as one of former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s best trades, the Phillies sent veteran righthander Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players to be named later. The first was Jesmuel Valentin, a middle infielder who is being developed as a super-utility player at triple-A Lehigh Valley. Three weeks later, on Aug. 28, Arano was sent to the Phillies to complete the trade.
"It was a little shocking at first because the Dodgers gave me the first opportunity to be a professional baseball player, so my first thought was, 'How different is this going to be?,'" Arano said. "But then I thought about it and I figured I would still be playing baseball in the States, which is where I want to be, and I might have a better chance to make it to the big leagues with the Phillies anyway."
Arano, considered the Dodgers' 18th best prospect at the time, was used mostly as a starter in Los Angeles' minor-league system. He said that when he came to the Phillies, he was asked where he felt most comfortable.
"When I first signed in Mexico, I was a reliever," he said. "But with the Dodgers, I was pitching really well and they decided to turn me into a starting pitcher. So I started doing that, but I was never really comfortable as a starting pitcher."
He remained a starter with the Phillies' high-A Clearwater team in 2015, but after posting a 0.72 ERA in 24 relief appearances in the Mexican winter league the Phillies put Arano back in the bullpen. He opened the 2016 season in Clearwater and finished it in Reading, and was overpowering in both places, recording 95 strikeouts while allowing just 63 hits and 19 walks in 79 2/3 innings.