Jose Cuas was a long shot to make it to the major leagues. That he did so in 2022, and established himself as a solid relief pitcher with the Kansas City Royals in the process, earned him some prestigious hardware on Monday.
Cuas was named the winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award, which is presented by the Boston Red Sox in memory of their former outfielder whose career was cut short by a beanball in 1967 and who died at age 45 in 1990. The award honors a single major league player "who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Tony C."
Cuas, who becomes the second Royal to win the award after outfielder Jim Eisenreich was the inaugural winner in 1990, made his major league debut on May 31. The 28-year-old went on to finish the season tied for fourth among Royals pitchers with 47 appearances and boasting a strand rate of 78.9% (30 of 38 inherited runners) that ranked seventh in the major leagues.
Along the way, the story of his journey to the bigs became one of the most heartwarming aspects of Kansas City's 2022 season. Joel Goldberg and Bally Sports Kansas City first shared that story with a television audience on July 31.
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Cuas in the 11th round of the 2015 draft as an infielder, then released him in 2018, shortly after he had switched from infielder to pitcher. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed him in 2019 and released him in 2020. In June 2021, the Royals offered a minor league contract to Cuas, who by that time was working as a FedEx driver when he wasn't pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
About a year later he was on the mound in Cleveland, making his major league debut at age 27 with the Royals. He struck out the first batter he faced and got the next two to ground out. The right-hander finished the season with a 4-2 record and 3.58 ERA.
"I am extremely honored to win this award," Cuas said. "This accomplishment is a significant milestone in my life. To see my name mentioned next to Tony Conigliaro is truly a blessing."
Cuas was selected in voting by a 14-member committee consisting of media members, MLB executives, Red Sox officials and Conigliaro's brother, Rich.