Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’
I was busy last evening and missed most of the Yankee game so when I sat down to write this blog at around 10:00 pm the first thing I did was check for the score of the game on ESPN NY. That’s when I learned about Mariano Rivera twisting his knee while shagging outfield flies in batting practice. After I cursed like a sailor, kicked the dog and screamed at my wife (I’m kidding, I don’t own a dog) I started thinking about just how durable Rivera has been during the seventeen seasons the Yankees have trusted no one else with ninth inning leads.
I’ll never forget thinking the Yankee front office was crazy for letting John Wetteland walk away as a free agent after he had saved 43 games during the 1996 regular season and all four of the Yankees’ victories in that year’s World Series. But it turned out he was just the first of many. What do Bob Wickman, David Weathers, Mark Wohlers, Tom Gordon, Octavio Dotel, Kerry Ward, Armando Benitez, and Rafael Soriano all have in common? Not only did they pitch in the same Yankee bullpen as the great Sandman, each of them has had 30-save seasons in the big leagues either before or after they became Mo’s teammate. Mo has been so good for so long that no other 30-save big league closer has ever had even the slightest chance of taking away his job. And that includes today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Like Mariano, Joe Borowski also began his big league career in 1995. The Orioles brought him up in July and he appeared in six games as a reliever that season. He spent the next year with the Braves but did not make their postseason roster so he missed the opportunity to compete against Mo and the Yankees in the ’96 Series. The following September Atlanta waived him and the Yankees picked him up. In 1998, he spent most of the season in Columbus but was called up to the Bronx in August. With the exception of one pounding he took against Texas, this right-handed native of Bayonne, NJ pitched real well, surrendering just a single run in his seven other appearances for New York. The Yankees let him go in September of 1999 and he didn’t get back to the big leagues until late in the 2001 season as a member of the Cubs. In 2002, he finally got a chance to pitch regularly at the big league level, when he appeared in 73 games for Chicago, won four of eight decisions, had an ERA of 2.73 and garnered his first two big league saves. That effort gave Cub Manager Dusty Baker the confidence he needed to give Borowski a shot at closing in 2003 and big Joe did not disappoint. He saved 33 games that year, lowered his ERA to 2.63 and was a big reason why the Cubbies made it to the postseason.
Chicago rewarded him with a two-year, four million dollar contract that off season and Borowski went out and tore his rotator cuff. The next year he broke his hand. He did not fully recover from those injuries until 2006 and by then he was pitching for the Marlins and getting paid the league minimum. But after he saved 33 games for Florida, the Indians signed him as a free agent with a two-year deal worth eight million dollars. Borowski helped Cleveland win the AL Central Division in 2007 by leading the League with 45 saves. The odd thing about his performance that season was that he was able to save so many games despite compiling an ERA north of five. When the 2008 season opened, Borowski got off to a horrible start, forcing Cleveland to first take his closer job away and then in July of that year, giving him his outright release. By then Borowski was 37 years old. He shares his May 4th birthday with this former Yankee infielder.
|CHC (5 yrs)||8||11||.421||3.73||175||1||106||0||0||44||198.0||182||87||82||24||67||192||1.258|
|ATL (2 yrs)||4||6||.400||4.32||42||0||16||0||0||0||50.0||60||26||24||6||29||21||1.780|
|CLE (2 yrs)||5||8||.385||5.57||87||0||72||0||0||51||82.1||101||53||51||13||25||67||1.530|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||1||.500||6.94||9||0||7||0||0||0||11.2||13||9||9||0||8||9||1.800|
|TBD (1 yr)||1||5||.167||3.82||32||0||4||0||0||0||35.1||26||15||15||3||11||16||1.047|
|FLA (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.75||72||0||60||0||0||36||69.2||63||31||29||7||33||64||1.378|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||1.23||6||0||3||0||0||0||7.1||5||1||1||0||4||3||1.227|
When CC Sabathia shed 25 pounds after the 2010 postseason, he also shed the mantra of being the heaviest full-time player in MLB history. That honor now reverts back to another Yankee pitcher named Walter Brown. Brown was 6’4″ tall, three inches shorter than Sabathia and tipped the scales at 295 pounds. As a result, he was better known as “Jumbo” Brown. Born in Green, Rhode Island, he broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 1925 and then pitched for the Indians during the 1927 and ’28 seasons. Not yet ready for prime time, the big guy then returned to the minors.
He became a Yankee in 1932 and spent four of the next five seasons as a member of the Yankee bullpen and one of manager Joe McCarthy’s occasional starters. Unfortunately for Brown, those Yankee teams of the 1930’s were loaded with talented pitchers. One of Brown’s biggest problems, according to author Stephen Lombardi in his book “The Baseball Same Game,” was the fact that his fingers were too short and too stubby to throw a curveball so he was limited to throwing only a fastball. Though Brown’s heater was a good one, it was not good enough to break into that Yankee rotation because after one time through a lineup, opposing hitters had a much easier time squaring up to a one-pitch pitcher.
By 1934, Jumbo was forced to pitch in Newark where he again got a chance to start and won 20-games for the Yankees’ top Minor League franchise. He was 19-16 during his stay in pinstripes, earning two saves and pitching two shutouts. The Reds purchased his contract in 1937 but he quickly returned to the Big Apple when the Giants bought him from Cincinnati that same season. He spent his final five big league seasons pitching very effectively out of the bullpen at the Polo Grounds. His one pitch repertoire was much more suited to relief work, during which hitters faced the rotund right hander and his fastball just once. Brown actually led the NL in saves in both 1940 and ’41 before joining the US Navy. His baseball career ended for good when his military service began. Jumbo is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on the last day of April.
|NYG (5 yrs)||13||12||.520||2.93||150||0||104||0||0||26||267.1||237||106||87||13||104||131||1.276|
|NYY (4 yrs)||19||16||.543||4.74||80||22||31||7||2||2||281.0||323||166||148||10||148||146||1.676|
|CLE (2 yrs)||0||3||.000||6.48||13||0||10||0||0||0||33.1||38||29||24||3||41||20||2.370|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.38||4||1||0||0||0||0||9.2||16||10||9||0||3||4||1.966|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||2||0||2||0||0||0||6.0||5||5||2||0||4||0||1.500|
From 1983 until 1987, Jesse Orosco was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He joined the Mets in 1979 as the player to be named later in the deal that sent the veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota. In the next few seasons, the southpaw would perfect a deadly slider and a backdoor curve that could at times make him unhittable, especially against left-handed batters. He went 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 1983 and followed that up with a 10-6, 31-save effort a year later. In the Mets magical 1986 season, Jesse and his right-handed closing counterpart, Roger McDowell practically guaranteed the Mets would win any game in which they led after seven innings. It was Orosco who nailed down the final outs in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series.
In 1987, Orosco had his first bad season as a Met and since 1988 would be the final year of his contract, New York decided to trade him before his free agency commenced. Thus began a fifteen year, nine team odyssey for Jesse, during which he was transitioned into one of the Game’s most effective situational left handed relief specialists. That was the role the Yankees needed filled when the Yankees acquired Orosco from the Padres at the midway point of the 2003 season. By then, he was 46 years-old, was pitching in his fourth decade, and had surpassed Dennis Eckersley as the Major League’s all-time leader in games pitched. Unfortunately, he had also lost the ability to get left-handers out.
Orosco appeared in 15 games as a Yankee, pitching a total of just 4.1 innings. He walked six batters, gave up 4 hits and compiled a horrible ERA of 10.48. On the last day of August during the 2003 season, the Yankees sent him to the Twins where he won the last of his 87 big league victories. He retired at the end of that season, his 24th in the big leagues, with 144 lifetime saves.
Orosco shares his August 21st birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee Manager.
|NYM (8 yrs)||47||47||.500||2.73||372||4||246||0||0||107||595.2||480||207||181||40||240||506||1.209|
|BAL (5 yrs)||15||11||.577||3.35||336||0||83||0||0||11||244.1||173||95||91||26||133||241||1.252|
|LAD (3 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.00||146||0||36||0||0||10||96.0||82||35||32||11||49||86||1.365|
|CLE (3 yrs)||10||8||.556||3.11||171||0||77||0||0||5||188.1||164||75||65||20||79||170||1.290|
|MIL (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||3.74||156||0||46||0||0||9||134.2||112||66||56||11||56||143||1.248|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.79||8||0||3||0||0||0||4.2||4||3||3||0||5||3||1.929|
|STL (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||6||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||3||3||1||1||3||4||2.571|
|SDP (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.56||42||0||10||0||0||2||25.0||33||22||21||4||10||22||1.720|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||10.38||15||0||0||0||0||0||4.1||4||6||5||0||6||4||2.308|
If they played under today’s big league structure with three different divisions and two wild card teams. The 1985 Yankees would have definitely made the postseason and quite possibly won a World Series. That team finished with 97 wins. In Yankee franchise history, only the 1954 Bronx Bomber team won more regular season games (104) and failed to reach postseason play. That ’85 team had a potent offense, which included Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson plus perennial all-star, Don Mattingly, who was at the peak of his career. They finished two games behind the Blue Jays that year and if you had to lay the blame anything, it would have to be the thinness of the club’s pitching staff. Ron Guidry won 22 games that year and 46-year-old Joe Niekro somehow managed to flutter his knuckleball enough times to win 16 more. They also had closer Dave Righetti doing his thing in the bullpen. After those three however, you really did need a score card to figure out who was on the mound at any given time for New York. That is unless it was Rich Bordi doing the pitching. That’s because the mustachio’d San Francisco-born right hander was 6’7″ tall, making him an easy read for Yankee fans back then.
Pitching for that particular Yankee team, however was anything but easy as Bordi soon found out. He had originally been drafted and signed by the A’s in 1980. In fact he was the last guy ever signed by Oakland’s eccentric owner, Charley Finley, which explains why he was also rushed into his big league debut that same year. By 1984, he had landed in Chicago with the Cubs, where he put together his best season with a 5-2 record as a starter and some-time reliever. That December, the Yanks sent Ray Fontenot and Brian Dayett to the Cubs for Bordi, Henry Cotto, Ron Hassey and somebody named Porfi Altamirano.
Bordi joined a Yankee team that was supposed to have been managed the entire season by Yogi Berra. George Steinbrenner had made that promise to his skipper before the season started. After a 6-10 start, “the Boss” broke that promise by firing Yogi and replacing him with Billy Martin.
Suddenly, poor Bordi, a modestly skilled big league pitcher found himself working for two men who had become famous for making the lives of modestly skilled big league pitchers miserable. The big Californian didn’t do that badly. He became a mainstay of Martin’s bullpen, appearing in a total of 51 games that year which included three starts. He finished the season with a 6-8 record, 2 saves and a decent 3.21 ERA.
I thought we’d see him in a Yankee uniform the following year but I was wrong. He and prospect Rex Hudler were traded to the Orioles for outfielder Gary Roenicke. Then I thought I would never again see him in a Yankee uniform. I was wrong again. The Yankees brought him back to New York as a free agent in 1987. That year, Lou Piniella had taken over as Yankee skipper and Bordi finished the season with a 3-1 record but a sky high ERA and New York released him. He was out of the big leagues by the following year. He returned to California and I believe he is now a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. I bet you he’s glad he doesn’t work for Billy Martin or George Steinbrenner any more.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this long-ago Yankee outfielder and also this now demolished shrine of Major League Baseball.
|OAK (3 yrs)||0||1||.000||3.86||5||2||2||0||0||0||11.2||11||7||5||0||6||6||1.457|
|CHC (2 yrs)||5||4||.556||3.81||42||8||11||0||0||5||108.2||112||52||46||13||32||61||1.325|
|NYY (2 yrs)||9||9||.500||4.33||67||4||22||0||0||2||131.0||137||69||63||12||41||87||1.359|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||2||.000||8.31||7||2||2||0||0||0||13.0||18||12||12||4||1||10||1.462|
|BAL (1 yr)||6||4||.600||4.46||52||1||22||0||0||3||107.0||105||56||53||13||41||83||1.364|
The Yankees claimed former Seattle Mariner pitcher, Aaron Laffey off waivers in August of 2011 to get a second left-hander in their bullpen. Laffey had spent his first four big league seasons with Cleveland, where he was considered a very decent pitching prospect. He caused quite a stir in 2008 when he started the season by winning his first four decisions but he just couldn’t get over the hump. By 2010, the Tribe had relegated him to the bullpen where he has spent the balance of his career.
The Cumberland, MD native made his pinstripe debut on August 20th of that 2011 season against the Twins but hardly anybody noticed. That’s because it was in the same game that television cameras caught an angry AJ Burnett screaming something in Joe Gerardi’s direction after the Yankee manager lifted his erratic starter in the third inning with the bases full of Twins. Laffey was probably happy to not get any post game attention since he gave up five hits, two walks and two runs in his initial three-inning stint.
He got his first Yankee win in his next appearance against the Orioles, thanks to Jesus Montero’s first two big league home runs. Laffey continued to pitch well in most of his appearances for New York, winning two of three decisions and finishing the season with a 3.38 ERA. That was not good enough to make the team’s postseason roster or keep him from being released by New York. He started the 2013 season as a member of the New York Mets’ bullpen.
Laffey is just the second member of the all-time Yankee roster to celebrate his birthday on April 15th. This merry old right-handed pitcher would have turned 124 years-old today.
|CLE (4 yrs)||18||21||.462||4.41||79||49||4||0||0||1||320.1||359||177||157||22||128||155||1.520|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||0||5.06||2||1||1||0||0||0||5.1||10||3||3||0||1||6||2.063|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||3.38||11||0||0||0||0||0||10.2||13||4||4||0||5||6||1.688|
|SEA (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.01||36||0||7||0||0||0||42.2||54||20||19||7||16||24||1.641|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||6||.400||4.56||22||16||1||0||0||0||100.2||100||56||51||17||37||48||1.361|