I have to admit that it has been harder for me to get excited about the Yankees’ “Killer B’s” pitching phee-noms than it has been for many more optimistic Yankee fans and pundits. Banuelos, Betances and (today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Andrew) Brackman were being pointed to as the future of New York’s pitching staff last year at this time and I kept looking for hard evidence for those lofty expectations. Manny Banuelos is a southpaw, who has had some strong seasons as a starter during his first years in the lowest levels of the Yankees’ Minor League system but as he’s advanced upward, so has his ERA. He’s only 20-years-old, so Banuelos still has plenty of time to prove his supporters right.
Dellin Betances is the 6’8″ right hander who is a native New Yorker. Yankee fans got a chance to see him start in that crazy 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay at the end of the 2011 season that took place on the same day the Orioles came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to knock the Red Sox out of the AL Wild Card lead. Girardi let Betances pitch just the first two innings of that game and he held the Rays scoreless. But like Banuelos, Betances success at the Minor League level happened early on, in the lowest levels. When he got his first opportunity to pitch for Triple A Scranton last year, he wasn’t what I would call overpowering, finishing with an 0-3 record and a 5.14 ERA in the four starts he made with the team.
As unimpressive as the first two “B’s” have been recently, they’ve pitched better than Brackman, who is both the oldest (he turns 26 today) and the tallest (6’10”) of the trio. After pitching and playing basketball at North Carolina State, Brackman was the Yankees’ first round pick in the 2007 Amateur Draft. He had suffered a stress fracture of his hip during his second year in college but that did not prevent New York from giving the kid a three-and-a-half-million dollar bonus to sign with the team. Before the ink was dry on his new Yankee contract, the big right-hander’s pitching elbow started aching and it was discovered that he needed Tommy John surgery. He worked hard to come back from that operation going 10-11 during a split season in Single A and Double A ball in 2010. But last year, when he advanced to Scranton, he was just 3-6 with an ERA of 6.00. I knew things were trending downward for him when I read that the Yanks had Scranton experimenting with him in the closer role. He did receive the obligatory September call-up every multi-million dollar bonus baby gets, last year and got into three late-September games for New York.
Brackman is supposed to have a fastball in the high nineties along with a knuckle curve and a good change-up. But he had a hard time getting any of them over the plate last season at Scranton, when he walked 75 batters in just 96 innings. With control issues that severe at this rather late stage of Brackman’s development, I was not surprised to learn last week that the Yankees had given up on him and declined his option for the 2012 season. The three Killer Bees have now become just a pair.
|162 Game Avg.||0||0||0.00||68||0||23||0||0||0||52||23||0||0||0||68||0||0||0||295||1.714|
By 1949, Joe Collins had been in the Yankee farm system for eleven years, starting as a sixteen year old with the Easton (Maryland) Yankees in the old D-level Eastern Shore League. During his last three seasons in the minors, the Scranton, PA native had torn up the pitching at the triple A level and was more than ready to play in the Majors. The problem was that Casey Stengel’s 1949 Yankees had more first baseman than some teams had pitchers. They included Tommy Henrich, Johnny Mize, Billy Jones, Fenton Mole, Jack Phillips and Dick Kryhoski. But Collins had averaged 25 home runs during his last three Minor League seasons and by 1950, the Yankee brass decided the then 26-year-old prospect needed a shot at the big leagues. Joe then became the team’s most frequently used first baseman until Moose Skowren took over the position in 1955. When that happened, Stengel continued to use Collins as an outfielder for two seasons until the New York front office sold him to the Philadelphia Athletics. Collins chose to retire rather than play in a uniform other than the Yankee pinstripes, ending the career of one of the classiest Yankees ever. Collins’ Yankee teams got into eight World Series, winning five of them. He never displayed as much power as he showed at the Minor League level during his Major League career but he did hit 18 home runs during the the 1952 season and 17 more in 1953. Collins, who was born in 1922, passed away in 1989.