Jose Lima dies at 37; pitcher helped Dodgers reach 2004 playoffs
Jose Lima, whose high-energy brand of pitching he called “Lima time” helped send the Dodgers to the playoffs in his only season in Los Angeles, has died. He was 37.
Lima died Sunday, Dan Evans, his agent, told The Times. According to Pasadena Police Lt. Tracey Ibarra, paramedics were called to Lima’s home just after 6 a.m. He had suffered an apparent cardiac arrest and was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Ibarra said. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy, said Los Angeles County coroner’s investigator Kelli Blanchard.
Evans said Lima had been out with his family Saturday night and had gone dancing and exhibited no signs of ill health.
Lima won 13 games for the Dodgers in 2004, helping the team win the National League Western Division title. He pitched a five-hit shutout in the playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers’ first postseason win since 1988.
Lima, who also pitched for Houston, Detroit, Kansas City and the New York Mets in his 13 major league seasons, sometimes alienated opponents with his antics, which included gesturing grandly on the field, pounding his chest and yelling into his glove. He even sang the National Anthem before a game with the Dodgers. But many former opponents said they enjoyed him once they played on his team and got to know him.
“You come to realize that the energy you see on the mound isn’t a false persona, that’s Jose Lima,” Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus told The Times on Sunday. Ausmus played with Lima in Houston and Detroit.
“He was a showman, a hot dog. But he’d win games; and I think a lot of times, it wasn’t his ability but his ability to will himself to do it,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. “In talking himself into it, I think he sort of intimidated some of the opposition too.”
Lima had been to Dodger Stadium about five times this month and on Friday sat in the front row of the field level behind home plate and received a loud ovation when he was introduced between innings. Sunday, the Dodgers observed a moment of silence in Lima’s memory before the game.
He was born Jose Desiderio Rodriguez Lima on Sept. 30, 1972, in the Dominican Republic. Lima was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1989, and the right-hander debuted with them in 1994. He made the All-Star team in 1999 with the Houston Astros when he won 21 games.
Lima was traded back to the Tigers in 2001 but released by the team in 2002. Kansas City picked him up from an independent league team in 2003, but he turned down their offer in 2004 to sign with the Dodgers.
After spending 2004 with the Dodgers, Lima returned to Kansas City. But he struggled to a 5-16 record, and his last major league season was 2006 with the Mets.
Lima’s many stops included pitching for Long Beach and Edmonton in the independent Golden Baseball League in 2009. “We’re all here for the same thing,” he told The Times while pitching for Long Beach. “If you work hard and stay focused, no reason you can’t get picked up by some major league team.”
When no teams expressed interest in him this year, Evans said, Lima moved past his playing career with a smile.
“For most guys, that’s a difficult transition. Jose not only embraced it but was excited about it,” said Evans, who was the Dodgers’ general manager when Lima signed with the team.
The Dodgers said Lima was preparing to open a youth baseball academy in Los Angeles and committed to making community appearances for the team.
Lima’s survivors include five children and a brother, Joel, a Dodgers minor league player, the Dodgers said. He was divorced.
Times staff writers Baxter Holmes, Carla Rivera and Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.