January 8 – Happy Birthday Brian Boehringer
Back during the 1995 season, Yankee manager Buck Showalter decided to give four of the Yankees’ young pitching prospects a shot at becoming part of the parent club’s starting rotation. The quartet included Andy Pettitte, Sterling Hitchcock, Mariano Rivera and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Brian Boehringer. It was rough going for all four at first. At the end of June Hitchcock was 3-4 with an ERA over five. Rivera was 1-2 with an ERA over nine. Pettitte was actually pitching pretty effectively with an ERA in the mid three’s but he’d managed to lose four of his seven decisions. Boehringer couldn’t get anybody out. His ERA was just under twelve and with the Yankees mired near the bottom of the AL East standings, you couldn’t blame Showalter for being ready to throw the towel in on his prospect experiment and ask the front office to go get him a reliable starter.
Just one-month later, the Yankee skipper was in a much better mood. Pettitte, Hitchcock and Rivera had all pitched much more effectively in July and on the 29th of that month, the Yankees pulled off a stunning trade that brought David Cone to the Bronx from Toronto for three Yankee minor leaguers. Cone’s addition to the starting staff freed up Rivera to go to the bullpen. A Yankee team that was 26-31 at the end of June, finished the strike-shortened season at 77-65 and made the playoffs.
Of the four young Yankee starters included in the experiment, only Boehringer failed to make an impact on that ’95 playoff team. He did a bit better the following year after getting called up from Columbus in August and even got the decision in one of the Yankees’ ALDS victories over the Rangers in the ’96 postseason. But it wasn’t until 1997 that he really hit his stride as a Yankee. That year he appeared in 34 games for Joe Torre’s AL Wild Card winners, going 3-2 with a career-best ERA of 2.63. I remember he pitched real well during the last month of that season, surrendering just a single earned run in his final twelve appearances. That’s why I also remember being a bit surprised when the Yankees left this right-handed native of St. Louis unprotected in the 1997 AL expansion draft. He was the 30th selection in that draft, going to Tampa but he was immediately traded, on that same day to San Diego. He then put together two decent seasons for the Padres before injuring his arm. After a couple of surgeries, it took Boehringer a while to regain his arm strength and the Yankees actually re-signed him as a free agent in the middle of his comeback. He struggled through two seasons, going a combined 0-7 in 2000 and ’01 before landing in the Pittsburgh bullpen in 2002. He went 10-10 as a Pirate reliever during the final three years of his big league career. Instead of hanging his glove up for good after Pittsburgh released him in 2004, he pitched three more seasons of minor league ball.