Villarreal's ring is as good as anyone's

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
1:51
AM ET
Red Sox World Series ringsCourtesy of the Red Sox
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- In Brayan Villarreal's only outing for the Red Sox last season, the right-hander faced one batter, issuing a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning as the San Francisco Giants posted a 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Aug. 20 at AT&T Park.

On Friday, Villarreal was at Fenway Park to accept his World Series ring.

David Ortiz, a three-time World Series champion, was sporting all three rings, along with a special 2013 World Series MVP ring on a thick, silver chain around his neck after Friday's ceremony. He was asked specifically about Villarreal receiving a ring, and, without hesitation, Ortiz answered.

"Everybody who played on the ballclub last year did something to win a ballgame, so it's well deserved," Ortiz said.

After the ceremony, Villarreal returned to Pawtucket, R.I., where the Triple-A PawSox were hosting the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at McCoy Stadium. He did not pitch in Pawtucket's 9-4 win, but afterward, he was showing teammates his ring.

"Man, that was a pretty good experience," Villarreal said. "It's so good when you work hard and you see results, even though I didn't play that much with them. I only got to pitch in one game. I'm so blessed I got traded to the right team, in the right moment, so I was just enjoying it."

Villarreal was part of the three-team trade on July 13, 2013, that involved the Red Sox sending shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers and receiving Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox. Villarreal remembers what it was like to pitch for the Red Sox last Aug. 20.

[+] EnlargeBrayan Villarreal
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezBrayan Villarreal's lone 2013 big league appearance was Aug. 20 in San Francisco, where he walked home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
"I remember it exactly," he said. "I got called up the day before I got to pitch, and I was excited to be with a new team. While it didn't go good, it didn't go as I wanted it to, but that's just how it is. I didn't get to pitch anymore, but I got the ring. They became champions, and I was happy for them."

"We were part of the team. I faced only one batter, but we shared with the team. We wore the uniform. We cheered for them, and we were right there. Anyone that is part of the team is allowed to get a ring."

There have been many players who had limited roles on all three Red Sox championship clubs in the past decade that received rings. For many of those players, earning that ring was the highlight of their career. Some never returned to the big leagues.

Former Red Sox pitcher Joe Nelson spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues with five different teams, including two separate stints with the Red Sox. In 2004, he spent the majority at Triple-A Pawtucket, but he was recalled by Boston and made three appearances. He worked a total of 2⅔ innings during that stint, allowing five runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Nelson earned a World Series ring.

"It's incredible," Nelson told ESPNBoston.com on Friday. "I pitched three innings, and I think I gave up five runs and I barely got anybody out, but they were in a stretch where a couple of guys got hurt and they were looking for anybody to help from Triple-A. I came up and they tried to keep me out of as many games as possible because I wasn't throwing that great. But I had to get in there a few times, and I don't look at it as I only played three games. I was on the '04 Red Sox, and no one can ever take that away from me. It was one of the highlights of my career. I got to be on a championship team."

Nelson was not on the Sox's postseason roster, and he wasn't part of the duck-boat parade.

"I didn't care. You think I was cheering any less when I was sitting at home when they were playing the Yankees [in the ALCS] and when they were playing the Cardinals [in the World Series]? Knowing that I was going to be a part of history -- I won a World Series ring," Nelson said. "Barry Bonds played his whole career and he never won one, and he's one of the greatest players of all time."

On July 2, 2004, the Red Sox acquired right-handed pitcher Brandon Puffer from the San Diego Padres. He was assigned to Pawtucket and spent the remainder of the season with the PawSox. On Sept. 1, the Red Sox needed reinforcements for the next day's game.

Puffer was recalled on Sept. 2 but never pitched that day for the Red Sox and was assigned back to the minors following the game. Due to the 72-hour waiver rule, and the fact that the PawSox's season ended on Sept. 6, Puffer's season was over.

Puffer earned a World Series ring.

"The Red Sox are a very class organization," Nelson said. "They made the choice in '04, '07 and last year that every player that was a member of the Boston Red Sox and suited up for them is going to get a ring. That shows the class of [owner] John Henry, [chairman] Tom Werner, [president and CEO] Larry Lucchino and [general manager] Ben Cherington and how they run the organization. They appreciate the fact that whether it's a small, small, small role or you're Koji Uehara or Jon Lester, you are an impactful player for the Boston Red Sox."

When hearing Villarreal received a ring this year, Nelson was thrilled.

"How many people on the planet? Only 18,500 have ever worn a major league uniform -- that's why he gets a ring, because he's pretty special," said Nelson, who is a pro scout for the Seattle Mariners.

Nelson's math is pretty close. Elias is not able to provide an exact number but says approximately 18,000 men have played in the majors. Think about that for a second: That's less than capacity for a Boston Bruins game at TD Garden.

Nelson, who is now a pro scout for the Mariners, thinks Villarreal definitely deserves a ring.

"If they need you for one batter or one game and you walk the guy; you are on the team, and you're a contributing factor in why they won the World Series -- whether it was organizational depth or whatever," Nelson said.

This past winter, Nelson attended a father/daughter dance, and his daughter asked him to wear the World Series ring.

"I'm proud of it," Nelson said. "Believe me, one day my son is going to get my World Series ring, and I hope he's as proud of it as I am because it meant a lot to me."

In April 2004, Phil Seibel made two appearances for the Red Sox. He worked a total of 3⅔ innings and allowed no runs and no hits with five walks and one strikeout. The left-hander was assigned to Pawtucket and remained there for the rest of the season before having Tommy John surgery in November.

He earned a World Series ring.

"As you can imagine, especially that ring, it was pretty surreal," Seibel said.

Seibel remembers arriving in spring training in 2005 and having no idea he would receive a World Series ring. As camp progressed, one of the team's clubhouse attendants informed Seibel he needed to be fitted that day for his ring, which was a complete surprise.

At the time, Seibel was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and was scheduled to remain in Fort Myers, Fla., after the Red Sox broke camp. The representative from the organization informed him that he would join the Red Sox and receive his ring on Opening Day at Fenway Park.

On April 11, 2005, Seibel stood in the dugout with all the other members who played for the Red Sox in 2004 and waited to receive his ring in a pregame ceremony. He wanted to make sure his father was a part of his big moment, so he called his dad on his cell phone and kept the line open during the introduction. As Seibel walked out to receive his ring, a video clip of him striking out the Yankees' Jason Giambi was shown on the scoreboard.

When the ring ceremony was done, Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky came over and gave Seibel a big hug.

"It was a great experience, just a lot of fun," Seibel said. "It was a blast, and [I'm] obviously thankful the Red Sox decided to make it available to all of us."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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