Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’
When I see the name Kyle Farnsworth, I associate it with a pitcher who had nasty closer-like stuff but lacked a closer’s mentality. Brian Cashman paid Farnsworth a lot of money after the 2005 season ($17 million over three years) to replace Flash Gordon as the new Yankee bridge to Mariano Rivera. The right hander had pitched his first six big league seasons as a member of the Chicago Cub bullpen. In 2005 he was traded to the Tigers. He made just 16 appearances in Detroit and was then traded to the Braves just before the 2005 inter-league trading deadline expired. He became Bobby Cox’s closer in Atlanta and during the last two months of the ’05 season, Farnsworth pitched the best baseball of his life. He saved 10 games, struck out 32 guys in 27 innings and gave up less than two earned runs per nine innings pitched, helping the Braves hold off the Marlins and win the NL East division race. But in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS, Farnsworth was called in to protect a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Astros and gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman and a solo shot an inning later and the Braves lost the game and the series in the 18th inning.
I remember watching that game. I’m sure it was a performance Farnsworth would love to forget and Brian Cashman must have forgot it when he paid all that money to bring this guy to the Bronx. He then became an enigma for Joe Torre. Torre was a great Manager but he did have his struggles developing working relationships with certain players and Farnsworth was one of them. In his first year in pinstripes, the pitcher struggled to establish a rhythm. He’d pitch lights out baseball for a stretch and then he’d get hit hard for a week or two. It was clear Torre did not trust his stuff and it became clear that Farnsworth resented that when the pitcher started talking about his Manager’s lack of faith in him to the New York sports press.
Ironically, it was Joba Chamberlain who effectively ended Farnsworth’s career in New York. When Joba was brought up in 2007 and pitched brilliantly as Mo’s set-up man, Farnsworth found himself buried even deeper in that Yankee bullpen. I call it ironic because Joba’s meltdown in the 2007 postseason’s “Bug” game at Jacobs Field seemed to knock his career off stride in the same way Farnsworth’s was thrown off kilter by his disastrous performance against the Astro’s two seasons earlier.
When both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down with injuries in the first half of the 2008 season, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Kyle was born in Wichita in 1976. Another Yankee who shares Farnsworth’s April 14th birthday is this hero from New York’s 2000 season.
|CHC (6 yrs)||22||37||.373||4.78||343||26||88||1||1||4||478.2||468||281||254||75||224||20||467||1.446|
|TBR (3 yrs)||6||7||.462||2.86||101||0||59||0||0||25||88.0||71||30||28||7||27||3||76||1.114|
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||9||.400||4.33||181||0||41||0||0||7||170.1||165||87||82||28||72||8||166||1.391|
|KCR (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.40||78||0||27||0||0||0||82.0||83||35||31||5||26||2||78||1.329|
|ATL (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||3.42||49||0||24||0||0||10||47.1||30||18||18||6||14||1||57||0.930|
|DET (2 yrs)||2||2||.500||3.53||62||0||21||0||0||6||58.2||56||26||23||5||25||1||73||1.381|
On August 20th of 1951, the Yankees made one of the most successful minor league recall decisions in franchise history. Bobby Hogue was a chubby, Miami-born WWII Navy veteran, who had made his big league debut in 1948 as a 27-year-old rookie reliever with that season’s NL Champion Boston Braves. The short and stocky right-hander did not make a very good first impression on Billy Southworth, the Braves’ skipper at the time, who took one look at Hogue’s waistline and told him he needed to lose some weight. What Southworth didn’t know was that Hogue may have looked out of shape but he was anything but. Back in Miami, before he joined the Navy, Hogue had been a promising amateur boxer who had won 36 fights. After watching the pitcher work his butt off during the Braves’ ’48 spring training camp, Southworth realized the rookie’s portly appearance actually disguised a well-conditioned athlete’s body and he brought Hogue north with the team.
That proved to be an excellent decision as Hogue went 8-2 during his rookie season in Beantown, with 2 saves and a 3.23 ERA. He didn’t get to make a single appearance in the Braves’ six-game World Series defeat to the Indians that year but he certainly was one of the key reasons Boston was able to get to that Fall Classic. He was blessed with a natural slider and he had always been able to locate it with extreme precision. He only walked 19 hitters in the 88-innings he pitched during that ’48 season.
He had another good year for the Braves in 1949 but the following year, his ERA ballooned to over five and his control began to erode. When he started off the 1951 season slowly, the Braves put him on waivers and he was picked up by the Browns. At first, the change of team’s and league’s did not benefit Hogue. By the end of July, he had appeared in 18 games for St. Louis and both his ERA and walk ratio were as high as ever. That’s when the Yankees purchased his contract and sent him to pitch for their Kansas City farm team. The demotion gave Hogue the opportunity to work on his knuckleball. That pitch helped him win four straight decisions in KC, which was good enough to earn him a ticket up to the Bronx on August 21 of the 1951 season.
At the time of the call-up, the Yankees were in second place, a game behind a very solid Indians’ ball club. They proceeded to finish the year by going 24-12 and capturing the AL flag by five games over second place Cleveland. Hogue made seven appearances in that stretch without allowing a run. He then put together two more goose-egg appearances against the Giants in that year’s World Series and got his second ring. Unfortunately, Hogue’s effectiveness abandoned him the following year. He was 3-5 with a 5.32 ERA when the Yankees put him on waivers in early August of the 1952 season. He was re-claimed by the Browns and though he pitched better once back in St Louis, he never again pitched in the big leagues after that 1952 season.
So you may be wondering why I started this post with the claim that Hogue’s recall from the minors in August of 1951 was one of the most successful recalls in Yankee franchise history? Yes he did finish the season and that year’s World Series un-scored upon but he only pitched a total of nine innings during that span. How could I place such historical significance on that front-office move that took place over a half-century ago? Well, Hogue was one of two Kansas City players the Yankees recalled that day. The other one was an infielder the Yankees were trying to convert into an outfielder. His name was Mickey Mantle.
Hogue shares his April 5th birthday with this former AL Rookie of the Year and the first starting third-baseman in Yankee franchise history.
The only former Yankee celebrating a birthday today is a big right hander named Dick Woodson, who appeared in just eight games for New York during the 1974 season and then left the big leagues. Woodson did all of his other pitching for the Twins. I can actually remember when he broke into their rotation. Back then, Minnesota had a young Bert Blyleven, veteran Jim Perry and one of my all-time favorite Yankee announcers, Jim “Kitty” Kaat, as starters. Those three guys had a total of 785 regular season victories between them. Woodson won 14 games as a Twin starter in 1972 and 10 more the following season. Then in May of 1974, Minnesota swapped Woodson for a lefthanded pitching prospect named Mike Pazik, who had been the Yankees first round pick in the 1971 draft. Neither pitcher performed well for their new teams. Woodson had actually torn his rotator cuff before the trade and back in those days, that injury ended a pitcher’s career.
Woodson did, however, play a significant role in baseball history when, in 1974 he was handpicked by the legendary Marvin Miller to become the first Major League Player to go through the newly established arbitration process. Miller had studied every eligible player’s contract and discovered Woodson was the most underpaid player in baseball. At the time, the Twins stingy owner, Calvin Griffith was paying the pitcher $15,000 and had offered him a $2,000 raise after a 14-victory season. Miller’s minions had discovered that pitchers with similar stats were making two and even three times more than Woodson was being offered. Woodson’s arbitration starting point was $30,000 and he won his case easily.
Cy Young was born on today’s date, way back in 1867. The legendary right-hander won 511 games during his 22-season career, more than any other man in baseball history. Young ended up in Cooperstown. He set such a standard for pitching excellence that the award given annually to the best pitcher in each league is named after him. One of the pitchers to win that award was also born on this date, 77 years after Young. His name was Denny McLain and he actually won the AL Cy Young Award two times in a row. McLain was baseball’s last thirty-game winner and he’s also quite a character who battled both drinking and gambling addictions and ended up in jail.
A Yankee pitcher also born on this date never came close to winning thirty games in a season or a Cy Young Award. His name is Bill Castro. He was a very good relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers for much of the 1970′s, winning 25 games and saving 44 more during his seven seasons with that team. The Yankees signed this right-handed native of the Dominican Republic as a free agent in February of 1981. Castro ended up pitching in just eleven games for New York during the strike-shortened season that followed, winning one and losing one decision. The Yankees then traded him to the Royals for third baseman Butch Hobson. When he stopped playing he got into coaching and worked for the Brewers organization until 2009. We know Castro won’t be following Cy Young to Cooperstown and let’s hope he never follows Denny McLain to jail, either.
2013 Yankee Regular Season Finish Prediction
I still can’t believe a New York Yankee team with a payroll that exceeds $200 million will be featuring the Opening Day lineup I’ve projected above. When the Yankees postseason ended last October, I was pretty certain that Nick Swisher would not be returning to New York this year and though I was hoping they’d re-sign Russell Martin, I knew there was a better than even chance that he wouldn’t be around the next Opening Day either. But I figured Cashman had to re-sign Raul Ibanez after his great postseason run.
Well the Yanks will open their 2013 season this week and in addition to Martin, Swisher and Ibanez, they will also be missing Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson from the lineup they fielded for Opening Day just one year earlier. Teixeira and A-Rod are recuperating from serious injuries that may keep them on the sidelines for much of this regular season. Jeter is still recovering from a badly broken ankle and the Grandy Man won’t be back till May, when a broken arm he suffered during his first spring training at-bat is fully healed.
Fortunately, New York’s starting pitching staff is mostly healthy (except for Phil Hughes) and relatively deep. Ditto for their very strong bullpen. So the task at hand for this skimpy patched together Yankee offense is to score enough runs to win enough games to keep New York within single digits of the AL East lead by June 1. Their record was 27-23 on that date last year. As long as they can keep it around the .500 mark this year, the returning members of the Yankee offense should provide the added boost needed to get them close to at least a postseason wild card spot. But I confess that I honestly have no idea if this new Yankee lineup is capable of doing that. A lot depends on how well their AL East opponents do. Toronto made the biggest roster improvements this off season and Tampa should again have the pitching quality necessary to keep the Rays in contention. I don’t expect Baltimore to digress and even Boston should be better because they no longer have their crazy skipper and added several positive pieces to their lineup during the winter.
Only the Yankee Opening Day lineup looks significantly worse on paper than it did last year so we need to remember that looks can be deceiving, at least until June.
The Yankee career of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant certainly got off to a rough and painful start. New York selected the six foot two inch right hander in the ninth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. The ex-Yankee infielder, Andy Stankiewicz was the scout who signed him. Melancon was penciled in as a reliever and assigned to the team’s Staten Island minor league club and two weeks later, after just seven appearances, he was shelved for the season when it was discovered he needed Tommy John surgery. After a one-year recovery period, the Wheat Ridge, Colorado native got rolling. He went 19-2 during his next three seasons in New York’s farm system and also earned 15 saves.
He made his Yankee debut with 13 appearances during the team’s 2009 World Championship season. Whenever a reliever on the parent club was injured, they’d bring up Melancon to fill in for him. Although he made four trips up to the Bronx that year, he did not make Joe Girardi’s postseason roster, but he did post a respectable 3.86 ERA. He didn’t make New York’s big league roster the following year either but was called up in May and made what turned out to be his final two appearances in pinstripes. That July, the Yankees swung a deal for Houston slugger, Lance Berkman and Melancon was one of the two prospects New York gave up to get the switch-hitter. (Infielder Jimmy Paredes was the other.)
Finally getting a chance to pitch regularly at the big league level, Melancon took advantage of it. He went 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA during his first half-year in Houston and then had a break-out year in 2011 with a 20-save, 8 win- 4 loss, 2.78 ERA season in 2011. That December, the Red Sox were desperate to find someone to replace their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, who had just signed as a free agent with the Phillies. Boston offered Houston their utility infielder Jed Lowrie along with pitching prospect Kyle Weiland in exchange for Melancon and the Astros bit. As it turned out, the Red Sox were not planning on putting their new acquisition in the closer’s role. Two weeks after their deal with Houston, Boston made a trade for the A’s closer, Andrew Bailey.
I remember the ESPN/Boston blog boards were pretty enthusiastic about the two closers coming to Fenway and I didn’t blame them. I thought they’d do really well there. But we were wrong. First Bailey got hurt in spring training and remained on the DL till August. That forced Melancon into the closer’s role. The team got off to a horrible start during the 2013 regular season under new manager, Bobby Valentine and their new closer was a key culprit. He lost the season opener and then blew a save in his second appearance two days later. After giving up six runs to the Rangers in an April 17th game, his ERA was 49.50. He was a wreck and Boston was forced to send him down to Pawtuckett to try and restore his game and his confidence. He pitched very well there and eventually made his way back to Fenway and pitched decently during the second half. But by then it was too late. The Bobby Valentine hiring had been a disaster for the Red Sox and Melancon would forever be tied to it. He was traded to Pittsburgh on December 26th of 2012.
Clay Rapada signed with the Yankees as a free agent just as New York’s 2012 spring training camp was opening. His career up to that point had been mediocre. He had gone un-drafted out of college (Virginia State University) and then signed with the Cubs in 2002. He didn’t make his big league debut until five seasons later, in July of 2007. Six weeks after that debut he was traded to the Tigers. His real rookie season was 2008, when he appeared in 25 games for Detroit and went 3-0. He spent most of the following year back in the minors and in December of 2009 he was traded to Texas. He appeared in ten games for the Rangers in 2010 and actually made their postseason roster. It was during the 2010 ALCS, when Texas defeated the Yankees that I first remember seeing the six foot five inch southpaw pitch with his extreme side-arm motion. Texas released him the following January and he was signed by Baltimore, where he appeared in 32 games for Buck Showalter and spent lots of time also pitching for the O’s Norfolk farm team.
So the Clay Rapada the Yankees signed in February of 2012 was by then 30-years-old and had spent at least part of each of the previous ten seasons in the minors, with four different organizations. He had started his professional career as a pitcher with a traditional overhand delivery, who would occasionally drop down to sidearm if an opposing hitter kept fouling off his pitches. A coach in the Cubs’ system convinced him that converting full-time to the submariner style would improve his chances of getting regular work in a big league team’s bullpen. Rapada made the change, modeling his new motion at first off of Dennis Eckersley.
One month after the Yankees signed Rapada, they acquired his mirror image, Cody Eppley off of waivers from Texas. Eppley was a right-handed sidearmer who had pitched with Rapada when both were in the Texas farm system. Together, this submarining duo would form the heart of Joe Girardi’s middle-inning relief corps. Rapada appeared in 70 games for New York during his first season in Pinstripes and Eppley appeared in 59. Rapada’s ERA was 2.82 and Eppley’s 3.33. Neither had ever pitched better and they credited their mutual success in part on being able to turn to each other for advice. The challenge most sidearmers have is that their teams’ pitching coaches are always retired hurlers who threw with traditional overhand motions. A traditional coach like the Yankees’ Larry Rothschild, can therefore not be of much help to Eppley or Rapada with their mechanics if their pitches stop doing what they are supposed to do. So having each other to serve in that role just might have been the secret to their success during their initial season together in the Bronx.
As I write this post, Rapada is currently trying to recover from a case of bursitis in his pitching shoulder. One interesting sidenote on this native of Portsmouth, Virginia. He will begin the 2013 regular season having never lost a decision in the big leagues. Through 2012, he has a perfect 8-0 record.
When Dallas Green took over as Yankee manager after the 1988 season he told New York’s front office that the Yankee pitching staff had grown ancient and he wanted some good young arms added to the roster. Bob Quinn, the Yankee GM complied by sending slugger Jack Clark to San Diego for a promising young starting pitcher named Jimmy Jones and a hard-throwing right-handed reliever named Lance McCullers. Mission accomplished, right?
Nope. Ten months later, New York was about to disappear from the AL East Division race, Jones was pitching in Columbus, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had an ERA over five and Green, who knew he was about to be fired, was probably wishing he still had Clark who was well on his way to a 26 HR, 94 RBI first-year performance with the Padres.
McCullers was a native of Tampa, Florida who had been a second-round draft pick of the Phillies in 1982. The Padres got him in a multi-player deal in 1984 and brought him right up to the big leagues in ’85. He had pitched impressively during his four years in San Diego for some pretty mediocre Padre teams and since he was only 25-years-old when the Yankees got him, it really did look like he’d be a valuable asset in New York’s bullpen for a long time to come.
But according to Green, McCullers still hadn’t learned how to pitch. The Yankee skipper told the media his new reliever depended to heavily on his fastball and unless he started throwing his slider and change up more, Green insisted his reliever would never be a successful big league pitcher. McCullers did at least outlast Green as a Yankee.
He went 4-3 during his one and only full season in pinstripes. He also earned 3 saves and had an ERA of 4.57. Things were definitely looking better for McCullers as he approached his second year in the Big Apple. Green had been replaced by Bucky Dent as Yankee skipper and during the 1989 offseason, the Yankees signed Lance to a new contract and gave him a $170,000 raise. But almost as soon as the 1990 regular season began, McCullers name was being bandied about in all kinds of trade rumors. Those rumors became true in early June, when the reliever was traded to the Tigers for catcher Matt Nokes. He would end that year pitching in the minors and after one more five-game stint with the Texas Rangers in 1992, McCullers big league career was over at the age of 28. His son Lance was the Houston Astros first round pick in the 2012 MLB amateur draft.
It certainly was not one of the better trades in Yankee franchise history. Goose Gossage had just bolted the Bronx Zoo via free agency and George Steinbrenner’s front-office minions were desperately seeking candidates to replace him. As is usually the case when teams are desperate, New York made a deal they would later regret. Mike Armstrong was a tall, right-hander from Long Island who had pitched well enough for the University of Miami to become the Cincinnati Reds’ first round pick (24th overall) in the 1974 MLB amateur draft. Five years later, while still in the minors, he was traded to the Padres for an outfielder named Paul O’Neill. After a couple of unimpressive big league trials with the Padres, Armstrong was sold to the Royals, where he quickly evolved into an effective member of the supporting staff of Kansas City’s All Star closer, Dan Quisenberry. He had his best season in 1983, when he went 10-7 in 53 appearances, with 3 saves and an ERA of 3.86.
Those numbers caught the attention of the Yankees and they wanted Armstrong badly enough that they agreed to give the Royals their young slugging prospect, Steve Balboni, in exchange. The trade was completed in December of 1983 and a few short weeks later, Armstrong reported to his first Yankee spring training camp with a sore pitching arm. As it turned out, the Royals had actually told the New York front office that Armstrong had a tender elbow before finalizing the deal, but the now Goose-less Yankees shrugged off the news. They would quickly regret their lack of follow-up.
Turned out that in addition to a glove, his spikes and a ball, Armstrong needed a steady diet of cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory pills in order to take the mound. His right elbow was so bad that the Yankees actually asked the MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to look into the possibility that the Royals had knowingly dealt them damaged goods. Kuhn never issued a ruling on the case and Armstrong didn’t make his Yankee debut until the middle of June of the 1984 season. He didn’t pitch badly. He went 3-2 during the second half, appearing in 36 games, with 1 save and a 3.48 ERA. But during the next two years he would only pitch in a total of 16 big league games before being released by New York. Fortunately for the Yankees they did not need to depend on Armstrong to replace Gossage because Dave Righetti proved to be more than up for that challenge. Unfortunately for New York, the guy they gave up for Armstrong would hit 117 home runs during his first four seasons with the Royals. Armstrong for Balboni turned out to be a terrible trade for the Yankees.
Armstrong shares his March 7th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.
The biggest contribution Doug Bird made to the Yankees was surrendering the eighth inning two-run home run to Thurman Munson that enabled New York to win the pivotal third game of the 1978 ALCS against the Royals. Munson’s homer was the only earned run Bird allowed the Yanks in a total of six postseason games he appeared against them between 1976 and ’78. After that series, the Royals traded Bird to Philadelphia where he had an unspectacular 1979 season. When the Phillies released him, the Yankees signed the tall right-handed native of Corona, California and he went 3-0 with a save for the 1980 AL East division winners. He was doing even better in 1981 when New York swung a deal that sent Bird to the Cubs for Rick Reuschel, who had been the ace of Chicago’s rotation for most of the previous decade. Even though Bird was 5-1 at the time of the trade, you had to be impressed with the Yankees’ front office ability to turn a Bird into a Reuschel. As it turned out, Reuschel went 4-4 for New York the rest of that season and then developed arm trouble and missed all of 1982. The snake-bitten Yankees released him in June of 1983. Reuschel would end up rehabbing his arm and become the ace of the Giants staff in the late eighties. In the meantime, Bird was converted back into a starter with the Cubs and after a 9-14 season in 1983 he was traded to Boston and was out of the big leagues one year later. Doug was born in Corona, CA and turns sixty-three-years-old today.
Bird shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder.
Sergio Mitre was another Yankee relief pitcher who had the full faith and confidence of Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, even though I was never sure what he had done to earn it. I remember hearing the Yankee manager tell members of the Yankee press corps that this big right-hander threw lots of ground ball outs. After watching him pitch in pinstripes for almost three seasons, it seemed to me as if I saw more bombs hit off Mitre than groundballs. During his five seasons in the big leagues before coming to New York. Sergio had a combined won-loss record of 10-23, an ERA of 5.36 runs per game and about six walks for every nine innings he pitched. On top of that he was suspended a year for steroid use and then underwent Tommy John surgery.
In 2009, his ERA as a Yankee was 6.79. The only time Sergio truly impressed me that season was during a start against the White Sox in late August, when he threw six innings of one-hit shutout ball in a 10-0 Yankee triumph. He certainly pitched better for New York in 2010 but not nearly good enough to earn him a shot at starting in 2011. But that was exactly the scenario Girardi set up for him. He let this native of Tijuana, Mexico compete for the fourth and fifth spot in the team’s 2011 rotation on equal footing with Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova. I was not at all surprised when Mitre failed to win that competition. The Yankees then traded Mitre to the Brewers a week before Opening Day, for outfielder Chris Dickerson. Three months later, the Yankees purchased him back from Milwaukee and gave him one more chance to become a key member of their bullpen. He failed to do so and was not offered a contract for the 2012 season. His three year record as a Yankee was 3-6, with 1 save and a lofty ERA of 5.35.
Mitre turns 32 years old today and shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee backup catcher.