Jose Cuas’ path to the majors leagues proved unconventional, arduous and trying. Simply getting to the point where he took the mound for the Kansas City Royals this year took an extraordinary level of perseverance, self-confidence and resolve.
Because of that, it struck a chord with many in and around the world of baseball. It also resonated quite distinctly in the Northeast Corridor.
Cuas earned the 2022 Tony Conigliaro Award, the Boston Red Sox announced on Monday. A 14-member panel composed of media members, MLB executives, Red Sox officials and Conigliaro’s brother, Rich, selected the annual winner of the award first handed out in 1990.
The award is named in memory of the Massachusetts native and former Red Sox outfielder, who saw his career severely affected after he was hit in the head by a pitch that caused damage to his eye in 1967. Conigliaro did return to the majors after the injury, but his career was ultimately shortened by vision problems. His life ended in 1990 at the age of 45.
The award goes to a “Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.”
Cuas, 28, made his major-league debut at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 31.
That marked the culmination of an unique journey that included having been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers as an infielder in 2015, converting to a pitcher in 2018, being released by multiple minor-league organizations, working for a period as a delivery driver for FedEx and pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League before he received another chance from an MLB organization.
“I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Cuas said in a release from the Royals. “This accomplishment is a significant milestone in my life. To see my name mentioned next to Tony Conigliaro is truly a blessing.”
The combination of injuries and players placed on the COVID-related IL opened the door for Cuas’ promotion to the majors.
A submarine-style right-hander, Cuas proved a vital part of the Royals’ bullpen this season. He pitched primarily in pressure-filled situations and often entered tight games with runners on base and in scoring position.
Cuas made the fourth-most appearances of any Royals pitcher, and he stranded 30 of 38 inherited runners (78.9% strand rate, seventh-best in the Majors among pitchers who inherited at least 35 runners).
Cuas went 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings throughout 47 appearances.
He joined former pitcher Jim Eisenreich, who battled Tourette syndrome, as the only Royals players selected as Tony Conigliaro Award winners. Eisenreich earned the inaugural award in 1990.