Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’
When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL shagging fly balls during a Yankee batting practice in Kauffman Stadium’s outfield in May of 2012, I thought David Robertson’s moment with destiny had arrived. I was sure it would be D-Rob and not the much higher-salaried Rafael Soriano who would be given the opportunity to replace the greatest closer ever to play the game and I was right. The next day it was Robertson who Joe Giardi summoned to pitch the ninth inning of a CC Sabathia 6-2 victory over Kansas City. Back at Yankee Stadium against the Rays a few days later, it was again D-Rob who got the call in the ninth inning, this time in a save situation. I can distinctly remember wondering how Soriano felt that night watching Robertson walk to the mound in a save situation against the team Raffie had left to take millions of Yankee dollars.
Robertson got the save that evening but it wasn’t pretty. He walked two batters and gave up a hit. Yankee fans had gotten use to seeing Robertson put men on base and then wiggle his way out of it. But that was when he was Rivera’s set-up man. Now, as closer, that wiggle room seemed a lot less spacious to Yankee fans and maybe Robertson noticed the difference too. The next night he got shelled for four runs against the same Tampa team, blowing the save and losing the game. The following night, Girardi turned to Soriano to close out the final game of the series and you could feel the torch being passed. A couple nights later, Robertson finished a game in Seattle (a non-save-situation) and the a few days later he was placed on the DL with a strained muscle in his rib cage, which could have been the result of a young pitcher trying too hard in his effort to replace a legend.
When Soriano opted out of his Yankee contract after the 2012 season, Robertson was again the favorite to replace Mariano, who announced in spring training that the 2013 season would be his last one. I believed D-Rob would benefit from his first attempt at closer and be much better prepared mentally to take over the role the next time he was given the opportunity. After another very strong year as Mo’s eighth-inning set-up guy in 2013, its too early to tell if that will be the case.
Robertson did get his first two saves of the 2014 season without much of a problem but he also suffered a groin injury in the process of earning that second one, which put him back on the DL. I am now officially concerned about this guy’s physical frailty. Does he have the strength and stamina to withstand the rigors of being a big league closer? We shall see.
Robertson was born in Birmingham, AL, on April 9, 1985. He was a 17th round pick for New York in the 2006 draft.
Ten years before Robertson joined the Yankee bullpen, this lefty reliever, also born on April 9th, was a key member of New York’s relief corps. This long-ago starting pitcher also shares D-Rob’s birthday.
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.
|MIN (5 yrs)||33||30||.524||3.35||129||73||16||15||5||2||561.0||488||244||209||49||241||303||1.299|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||5.79||8||3||2||0||0||0||28.0||34||19||18||6||12||12||1.643|
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.
|MIL (7 yrs)||25||23||.521||2.96||253||5||179||0||0||44||411.0||415||164||135||22||108||145||1.273|
|KCR (2 yrs)||5||2||.714||4.56||39||4||13||0||0||1||116.1||123||68||59||12||32||54||1.332|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||3.79||11||0||6||0||0||0||19.0||26||13||8||2||5||4||1.632|
After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.
A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.
Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978. After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.
He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.
|MIL (4 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.63||124||2||39||0||0||6||163.2||158||78||66||13||71||81||1.399|
|SEA (3 yrs)||2||5||.286||4.19||70||1||21||0||0||3||88.0||96||50||41||7||39||55||1.534|
|TEX (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||5.15||50||4||22||0||0||4||78.2||76||46||45||6||39||52||1.462|
|TOR (2 yrs)||5||12||.294||4.64||41||23||3||3||1||0||145.1||171||89||75||13||73||62||1.679|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||4||.000||8.79||10||1||0||0||0||0||14.1||16||15||14||3||10||4||1.814|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||5.59||3||2||1||0||0||0||9.2||9||6||6||1||7||4||1.655|
For the past decade the voodoo drug in Major League Baseball has been steroids and its tentacles have extended into the Yankee locker room on several occasions, highlighted by the public confessions of A-Rod and Jason Giambi. I’m currently reading Jim Bouton’s incredibly good book “Ball Four,” in which he chronicles his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros. In it, “the Bulldog” makes it very clear that in the 1960′s, the voodoo drug of choice for professional baseball players was amphetamines (or “greenies” as they were called back then.) Before that, booze was the preferred poison of Major Leaguers. It was alcohol abuse that almost derailed Babe Ruth’s career in New York, rotted Mickey Mantle’s liver and allegedly contributed to the roll-over of the pickup truck that killed Billy Martin.
So illegal drugs and substance abuse of some sort or another have unfortunately become as big a part of the Yankee tradition as pennant drives and batting crowns. Its been going on forever and you can bet its not going away any time soon. I personally consider the most demoralizing period of substance abuse to have been the 1980s. Why? Cocaine.
Drinking booze was and still is considered as much of an accepted all-American pastime as the game itself. Greenies and steroids were not good for ballplayers but they were dispensed and administered under the premise that they would help a player perform better. But smack was different. Too many Americans had already witnessed or personally experienced the debilitating impact of cocaine addiction on people and whole communities.
Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe, Tim Raines, Lee Mazzilli, and Dale Berra were all one-time Yankees who experienced highly publicized cocaine addictions. And then there was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Rod Scurry was a California native who came up to the big leagues with the Pirates in 1980. He was a tall lean left-hander who became a workhorse in manager Chuck Tanner’s bullpen during the early eighties. But of all places, Pittsburgh, famously known as the Steel City, was also the Cocaine Center of Major League Baseball in the 80′s. In 1985 a Pittsburgh grand jury was convened to hear testimony from players on the Pirates and opposing teams who purchased cocaine from drug dealers permitted inside the home and visiting clubhouses of Three Rivers Stadium. (Raines, Mazzilli, Berra and Scurry all testified)
Trials were held, the dealers were jailed and the commissioner handed out fines and suspensions to the players involved. In September of 1985, while these legal proceedings were still in process, the Yankee purchased Scurry from Pittsburgh. Then-Yankee Manager Billy Martin inserted him into five games for New York during the last month of that season and Scurry pitched well, winning his only decision, earning a save and posting an ERA of 2.84.
The following March, MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth announced his penalties for all the players involved in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. Scurry was quoted at the time in a NY Times article, referring to the penalties as “a great day for baseball.” In that same article, it was pretty clear that Scurry himself had doubts about his ability to stay off the drug. “It’s all in the past now. It’s a new start in life and in baseball. I’m on the way back up. Go back two years, and I was almost out of baseball. I think addiction overrides everything else, no matter how stiff the penalties are. You don’t care about anything; nothing matters. It’s not something you can turn off and on. I don’t know where it’ll end, if it’ll ever end.”
For Scurry, it did not end. He went on to pitch for New York in 1986, appearing in 31 games and finishing the season with a 1-2 record with 2 saves and ann ERA of 3.66. That December, the Yankees re-signed him to pitch for the club the following year. Just one month after that signing, Scurry was arrested for drunken driving in Reno, NV and refused a police request to undergo a chemical test. That incident pretty much ended his Yankee career.
I found the following in another NY Times article, describing events leading up to Scurry’s death in November of 1992: “…Scurry’s neighbors in Reno summoned Washoe County sheriff’s deputies to his home. They found the 36-year-old Scurry in the throes of what the coroner’s report later called an acute psychotic episode. The deputies said he complained that snakes were crawling on him and biting him. They said Scurry became violent and stopped breathing when they tried to place him in handcuffs and leg restraints. Hospitalized and placed on life-support systems in the intensive-care unit, Scurry died a week later. An autopsy disclosed that he died of a small hemorrhage within his brain after a cardiorespiratory collapse. A “significant condition,” the autopsy report said, was cocaine intoxication.”
Scurry shares his St. Patrick’s Day birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher.
|PIT (6 yrs)||17||28||.378||3.15||257||7||115||0||0||34||377.1||309||152||132||22||224||345||1.413|
|NYY (2 yrs)||2||2||.500||3.46||36||0||12||0||0||3||52.0||43||22||20||3||32||53||1.442|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||2||.000||4.02||39||0||18||0||0||2||31.1||32||16||14||6||18||33||1.596|
The Yankees signed this Puerto Rican giant in 1988 after selecting the 6’7″ right-hander in the 15th round of that year’s amateur draft. During his senior year at Miami Lakes High School in Hialeah, Florida Munoz was a star basketball player who had scholarship offers to play hoops at several big-time schools. In fact, he planned on playing on the hard court at UNLV but bad grades forced a change in those plans and he went to Palm Beach Community College instead. That’s when the Yanks drafted him and convinced him to give professional baseball a shot.
He spent four-plus seasons in the Yankee farm system, where he was converted into a closer when he reached Stump Merrill’s Columbus Clippers Triple A team in 1993. After starting out the season there with a 3-1 record and 10 saves, the Yanks called him up to the Bronx in late May to join Buck Showalter’s bullpen.
A confident 25-year-old at the time of his call-up, Munoz asked for and received Goose Gossage’s uniform number 54. He then spent his first month in pinstripes reminding New York fans of the Goose, pitching in a setup role for then-Yankee closer Steve Farr. By June 29th his record was 2-0 with 3 holds, 17 K’s and a solid 2.50 ERA.
Unfortunately, he faltered in the second half and then the Yankees grew concerned about his weight, which had gotten above the 260 mark by the end of his debut season. He got his weight back down that winter but was unpleasantly surprised at the beginning of the Yanks 1994 spring-training camp to find he had been dealt to the Phils in the deal that brought starting pitcher Terry Mulholland to New York.
The Phillies tried to make him a starter again and his 7-5 record in that role during the strike-shortened season of 1994 indicated there was some wisdom behind the move. But he hurt his arm the following year and went a combined 1-14 during his final five big league seasons.
|PHI (4 yrs)||8||15||.348||4.84||38||30||2||1||0||1||178.2||205||116||96||19||66||93||1.517|
|MON (1 yr)||0||4||.000||5.14||15||7||4||0||0||0||42.0||53||25||24||6||21||21||1.762|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||3||.500||5.32||38||0||12||0||0||0||45.2||48||27||27||1||26||33||1.620|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||9.75||9||1||5||0||0||0||12.0||18||13||13||4||6||6||2.000|
The nice thing about writing a blog like this is that in doing the research necessary, I learn things about my all-time favorite team that I never knew or realized. For example, I remember when Greg Cadaret wore pinstripes but I had no idea he actually appeared in over 180 games for New York during the three and a half seasons he pitched as a Yankee. His best season in the Bronx was 1991 when he went 8-6 out of the bullpen with three saves and a 3.62 ERA. He came to New York in the 1989 in-season trade that sent Ricky Henderson back to Oakland. The Yankees sold him to Cincinnati after the 1992 season. Greg was born in Detroit on February 27, 1962.
Another Yankee celebrating a birthday on February 27 is this former catcher who is the only man in MLB history to have caught two perfect games during his career. This former catcher/coach and another former Yankee reliever also share Cadaret’s birthday.
|NYY (4 yrs)||22||23||.489||4.12||188||35||36||4||2||7||439.0||443||220||201||35||235||324||1.544|
|OAK (3 yrs)||11||4||.733||3.24||113||0||29||0||0||3||139.0||118||57||50||8||79||108||1.417|
|ANA (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||3.91||54||0||17||0||0||1||50.2||49||22||22||7||23||48||1.421|
|KCR (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.93||13||0||3||0||0||0||15.1||14||5||5||0||7||2||1.370|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||0||4.70||11||0||3||0||0||0||7.2||11||4||4||1||3||5||1.826|
|CIN (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.96||34||0||15||0||0||1||32.2||40||19||18||3||23||23||1.929|
|DET (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.60||17||0||9||0||0||2||20.0||17||9||8||0||16||14||1.650|
|TOR (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.85||21||0||8||0||0||0||20.0||24||15||13||4||17||15||2.050|
One of the Yankees’ less publicized free agent signings during their busy winter of 2013-14 was Matt Thornton, a veteran left-handed reliever who they are now counting on to replace the departed Boone Logan. They liked Thornton enough to give him a two-year, $7 million deal. I was kind of thinking that they already had Logan’s replacement on their roster.
Cesar Cabral is a huge, hard-throwing southpaw, who made his big league and Yankee debut during September of the 2013 season. Joe Girardi got this 6’3″ – 250 pound native Dominican into eight games that month and he responded by giving up just 1 run while striking out six in the 3.2 innings he pitched. New York had hoped to feature Cabral in their parent club’s bullpen much sooner, when they picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft in 2012. In fact, he was impressing everyone during New York’s 2012 spring training camp, when he injured his left shoulder during the same game Michael Pineda injured his right one, forcing both pitchers to undergo career-disrupting surgery.
If Cabral’s arm is fully healed, I do think he has the stuff to make an impact at the big league level, especially if the Thornton signing backfires. He turns just 25-years-old today, which means he’s young enough to have long-term late-inning impact for my favorite team.
Back in the mid eighties, one of the top Yankee prospects was a big power hitting first baseman named Orestes Destrade. He was a tall Cuban who was hitting about 25 home runs per season for New York’s upper level farm teams and Yankee fans got our first look at him in September of 1987 when big league rosters expanded to 40. He didn’t hit any home runs but he did get on base a lot (.417 OBP) so I thought we’d probably see more of him the following year. I was wrong.
New York traded Destrade that off season. Back then, New York traded top prospects faster than Donald Trump fired apprentices so I wasn’t surprised to see Destrade dealt. I was surprised at who the Yankees got in return. Hipolito Pena was a tall thin left-handed pitcher who had appeared in 26 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the previous two seasons. He had lost all six of his Pirate decisions and accumulated a 5.56 ERA. In 1988, Pena became part of the Yankee bullpen, getting into 16 games and earning his first and only big league victory. He then spent the next six seasons in the minors before retiring for good in 1996. In the mean time, Destrade never made it with Pittsburgh but he resurfaced with the Marlins in 1993, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 87 in what was considered his rookie year. But he also struck out 130 times. Orestes had a terrible 1994 season and it ended up being his last one in the big leagues.
Pena shares a birthday with this former Yankee coach.
|PIT (2 yrs)||0||6||.000||5.56||26||2||5||0||0||2||34.0||23||24||21||5||29||22||1.529|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||3.14||16||0||8||0||0||0||14.1||10||8||5||1||9||10||1.326|
By the time John Habyan got to the Yankees he had learned the hard way that it was best to keep his emotions in check. The Bay Shore, New York native was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 1982 draft right out of St. John the Baptist High School. He then impressed everyone during his quick climb up the O’s farm system and by 1985, this right-hander was getting shots with the parent club. He later admitted that he was overwhelmed by the experience and and had difficulty staying calm and composed on the mound. He got his best shot with Baltimore in 1987, appearing in 27 games, including 13 starts for a very bad Orioles’ ball club. He went just 6-7 with an ERA near five and then he separated his shoulder in a winter sledding mishap.
So by the time Baltimore gave up on Habyan and he was traded to the Yankee organization in 1989, he had learned his lesson. No more being in awe of big league hitters and no more letting his emotions effect his pitching. He convinced himself he hated every hitter he faced and he learned how not to get too excited when a manager handed him a baseball. He also worked hard to improve his slider.
These were great adjustments on his part. He got his ticket to the Bronx in 1991 after pitching well in Columbus the season before. His first year in New York was Stump Merrill’s last and his 4-2 record and 2.30 ERA in 66 appearances was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Yankee season. He and closer Steve Farr combined to give New York a great chance to win whenever the team’s substandard offense was able to give them a lead to protect in the late innings.
Habyan then started out the 1992 season just as hot and new Yankee manager Buck Showalter told every reporter who would listen that this guy was the best setup man in the game. But it didn’t last. Habyan started getting hammered after the 1992 All Star break as hitters no longer had trouble squaring up on his slider.
New York gave him a chance to recover the magic in 1993 but when it didn’t happen, he was traded in a three-team deal that put reliever Paul Assenmacher in pinstripes. After pitching for four different teams in the next three seasons, Habyan’s big league career ended in 1996. He eventually became the head baseball coach at his old high school on Long Island.
|NYY (4 yrs)||11||9||.550||3.16||164||0||58||0||0||10||213.2||212||82||75||13||59||147||1.268|
|BAL (4 yrs)||9||10||.474||4.61||42||18||7||0||0||1||160.0||159||95||82||25||62||84||1.381|
|STL (2 yrs)||4||2||.667||3.07||83||0||19||0||0||1||88.0||82||35||30||2||35||81||1.330|
|KCR (1 yr)||0||0||4.50||12||0||2||0||0||0||14.0||14||7||7||1||4||10||1.286|
|COL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.13||19||0||5||0||0||0||24.0||34||19||19||4||14||25||2.000|
|CAL (1 yr)||1||2||.333||4.13||28||0||7||0||0||0||32.2||36||16||15||2||12||25||1.469|