Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’

January 27 – Happy Birthday Mike Zagurski

Mike_ZagurskiIt really was amazing that despite a rash of injuries and bad personnel moves by the team’s front office, the Yankees still had a shot at postseason play going into the second week of September. But when they dropped the first two games of their final series with the Red Sox, I knew there’d be no fall ball for my favorite team in 2013.

On the evening of Sunday, September 15th, I decided to turn on the final game of that three-game set for one reason and one reason only. Ivan Nova was scheduled to pitch and I wanted to see if he was back in his groove. Even though he had won his previous four decisions, he had pitched poorly in his last two outings, getting roughed up by the Rays and the Red Sox. With Pettitte retiring and Hughes imploding, I figured Nova was an essential member of New York’s 2014 rotation so I wanted to see if he could hold the soon-to-be World Champion Red Sox in check that night. He didn’t. When Boston knocked him out in the fifth inning the Yankees were behind 5-1.

By the time the seventh inning rolled around I was probably already snoring away and dreaming that the Yankees would not only sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran the following offseason, but also snare Masahiro Tanaka. Whatever the reason, I ended up missing the Yankee debut of today’s Pinstripe Biirthday Celebrant. It turned out to also be his farewell performance as a Bronx Bomber. When he took the mound in Fenway that evening, he became the 23rd different pitcher to do so for New York during the disappointing 2013 regular season.

Like Joba Chamberlain, the guy he relieved in that night’s game, Zagurski is a native of Nebraska. A 12th round draft choice of the Phillies in 2005, he had made his big league debut two years later, appearing in 25 games out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 2007 and struggling mightily with his control. The portly southpaw then spent most of the next four seasons in the minors, eventually getting traded to the Diamondbacks. He made Arizona’s big league staff in 2012, appeared in 45 games that season and again struggled with his control.

He was released that November and picked up by Pittsburgh that December. The Yankees originally signed him in June of 2013, when the Pirates let him go. New York then released him two months later. He was with Oakland for two short weeks, got dropped and re-signed with the Yankees. Cashman picked him up again only because Boone Logan’s sore pitching elbow wasn’t responding to treatment and Joe Girardi needed a  left-arm in the pen to replace it. Unfortunately, Zagurski failed the only chance the Yankee skipper gave him to fill that void.

The first hitter he faced against Boston that night was Stephen Drew, who drilled a long fly ball out to deep right. Red Sox phee-nom Xander Bogaerts then singled sharply. Another Red Sox phee-nom, Jackie Bradley became the last hitter the Big Zag would ever face while wearing a Yankee uniform. He ended up hitting the young outfielder with a pitch. Cashman released him right after the season ended and Zagurski’s odyssey continued when he was signed the following month by the Indians.

Zagurski became the ninth member of the all-time Yankee roster with a last name that began with the letter “Z.” He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee who won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Award, this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this one too.

2013 NYY 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
5 Yrs 1 0 1.000 7.05 89 0 23 0 0 0 75.1 85 60 59 11 46 75 1.739
PHI (3 yrs) 1 0 1.000 6.82 37 0 8 0 0 0 31.2 37 24 24 5 19 36 1.768
ARI (1 yr) 0 0 5.54 45 0 13 0 0 0 37.1 37 24 23 5 19 34 1.500
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 15.00 6 0 2 0 0 0 6.0 10 10 10 1 8 5 3.000
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.

January 23 – Happy Birthday Mark Wohlers

wohlersIf you weren’t a Braves’ fan back in the early-to-mid 1990’s, you are probably quick to give much of Atlanta’s phenomenal success during that era to the stellar starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. If you were instead a devoted tomahawking follower of the team back then, you know how huge a role today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant played in the success of that franchise.

Only one word is needed to describe Mark Wohlers’ performance during Atlanta’s championship season of 1995, “invincible.” After spending his first four big league seasons evolving into one of the best late-inning relievers in baseball, the Braves made the decision to turn this native of Holyoke, Massachusetts with his 100 mile per hour fastball and a nasty split finger, into their closer. All he did was go 7-3 with 25 saves in the regular season and put together five more saves during the Braves victorious 1995 postseason run to the title.

He then saved 39 more games during the 1996 regular season and five more in that year’s NLDS and NLCS. As he and his teammates prepared to defend their world championship against the Yankees, I remember thinking it was going to be very difficult for my favorite team to emerge victorious against Atlanta, largely because Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were so good at giving the Brave’s bullpen the lead and Wohlers’ was the best in the business at keeping it. Then Mr. Wohlers met Mr. Leyritz. The encounter took place in the eighth inning of Game 4, with the Braves leading 6-3. At the time, Atlanta had a two-games to one edge over New York and if they had been able to hold that Game 4 lead, I have no doubt they would have repeated as champions.

Instead, Leyritz hit his famous game-tying homer and it proved to be a turning point in three significant ways. The Yankees not only won that Series, they have gone on to appear in six more since ’96 and win four more of them. The Braves on the other hand have not made it back to the Series since and worst of all, Wohlers was really never again the same dominating pitcher he had been right up until the moment Leyritz drove that ball over the the left field wall of Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium.

The big right-hander was able to save 33 games for the Braves in 1997 but he suddenly had trouble throwing that blazing fastball over the plate. Since he couldn’t get ahead with his heater anymore, opposing hitters were able to simply lay off Wohlers’ split-finger. As his walks climbed so did his ERA. He lost the closer spot the following season and began throwing so much in an effort to figure out what was wrong, he blew out his elbow, requiring surgery. By 1999 he was pitching for Cincinnati.

In July of 2001, the Reds traded him to the Yankees for some pitcher who never made it to the big leagues. Wohlers was excited about coming to New York and told the Yankee press he had fully recovered from his surgery and was ready to get hitters out again. Joe Torre pitched him 31 times during the second half of that ’01 season and though his arm held up OK, he was still struggling with his control. The Yanks let him sign a 2-year deal with the Indians after the season ended.

Wohlers shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee first baseman and this former Yankee first-round draft pick.

2001 NYY 1 0 1.000 4.54 31 0 14 0 0 0 35.2 33 20 18 3 18 33 1.430
12 Yrs 39 29 .574 3.97 533 0 293 0 0 119 553.1 490 273 244 37 272 557 1.377
ATL (9 yrs) 31 22 .585 3.73 388 0 233 0 0 112 386.1 331 178 160 20 204 437 1.385
CIN (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 4.20 50 0 18 0 0 0 60.0 55 34 28 8 24 41 1.317
CLE (1 yr) 3 4 .429 4.79 64 0 28 0 0 7 71.1 71 41 38 6 26 46 1.360
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 4.54 31 0 14 0 0 0 35.2 33 20 18 3 18 33 1.430
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/23/2014.

January 21 – Happy Birthday Preston Claiborne

claiborneIf it wasn’t for a horrible September, this big right-hander from Dallas would have been my choice for the Yankees’ 2013 Rookie of the Year. In his pinstriped debut against Oakland on May 5, 2013, he relieved Andy Pettitte in the sixth inning and retired all six A’s he faced. He remained in a groove, not surrendering a run in his first seven appearances and by the end of July, his ERA was still a splendid 2.06.

He quickly became one of Joe Girardi’s favorite go-to guys in the middle innings and when both Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan proved ineffective, it was Claiborne and Shawn Kelley who picked up the Yankee bullpen time and again until September reared its ugly head.  That’s when this former Tulane Green Waver was hammered in three straight appearances against the Red Sox, giving up a total of eight runs in the one and two-thirds innings he pitched against Boston. That sent his ERA over four and put a damper on what had been a splendid first year.

Claiborne remains prominent in Girardi’s bullpen plans for the 2014 season, especially with both Logan and Chamberlain gone and David Robertson assuming the closer role left vacant by Mariano Rivera’s retirement.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this former back-up catcher.

2013 NYY 0 2 .000 4.11 44 0 12 0 0 0 50.1 51 23 23 7 14 42 1.291
1 Yr 0 2 .000 4.11 44 0 12 0 0 0 50.1 51 23 23 7 14 42 1.291
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

January 16 – Happy Birthday Colter Bean

BeancolterRemember Colter Bean? I do, all six feet, six inches and 250 or so pounds of him. He was a right-handed pitcher from Alabama who went un-drafted after completing his collegiate career in 2000 and was then signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent that same year.

During the next five seasons, he developed into one of the potential “Mariano Rivera successors” in the Yankee farm system. The problem with that of course was that Rivera was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going and going and didn’t require any successoring.

So Bean kept pitching well out of the pen for Yankee farm teams, putting together a 38-20 record with 16 saves, while getting three brief trials with the parent club. Unfortunately for Bean, he didn’t impress anyone in any of them and ended up getting released by New York in 2007, when he was already 30-years-old.

The Braves signed him and a year later, so did the Rays, but he would never again pitch in a big league game. Too bad, because I thought Colter Bean had one of the coolest names in Yankee franchise history. Its a name you can’t forget. I never have.

He shares his January 16th birthday with this bird-flipping former Yankee pitcherthis one-time Yankee first-baseman and DH and this former Yankee reliever.

2005 NYY 0 0 4.50 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 1 1 1 0 2 2 1.500
2006 NYY 0 0 9.00 2 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 2 2 2 0 2 1 2.000
2007 NYY 0 1 .000 12.00 3 0 0 0 0 0 3.0 5 4 4 0 5 2 3.333
3 Yrs 0 1 .000 9.00 6 0 2 0 0 0 7.0 8 7 7 0 9 5 2.429
162 Game Avg. 0 11 .000 9.00 68 0 23 0 0 0 79 91 79 79 0 102 57 2.429
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/16/2014.

January 15 – Happy Birthday Curt Brown

curtisbrownI’m the first to admit that I don’t remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the New York Yankees. This native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL pitched in pinstripes during the 1984 season for manager Yogi Berra after he was acquired in a trade with the California Angels the previous December. He was a tall right-hander who didn’t make  New York’s Opening Day roster that year but was instead called up a month later, when starter John Montefusco went on the DL.

Berra used Brown a lot, getting him into 13 games in just over a month and the then-24-year-old pitcher was up to the task. He gave up just 5 runs in 16 2/3 innings of work for an impressive ERA of 2.70. But whenYankee starter, Shane Rawley was ready to return from the DL at the beginning of June, it was Brown who was reassigned to Columbus to make room for him on the 25-man roster.

New York released him in October of 1985 and he signed with the Expos. Montreal gave him two more shots at the big leagues in both 1986 and ’87 but he could not take advantage of either opportunity.

I chose to include Curt Brown in the Pinstipe Birthday Blog because of his common last name. I thought it might be interesting to find out the most popular last name on the Yankees’s all-time roster and figured Brown would be one of them. I was right. There have been seven players with the last name of Brown to play for the franchise. In addition to Curt, they include two Bobby’s, one nicknamed Boardwalk, Hal, Jumbo and Kevin. The most popular last name in Yankee history is Johnson. There are 17 “Johnson’s” on the Yankees’ all-time roster. “Rodriguez” and “Williams” are the second most popular Yankee player surnames with 8 each. There have also been 7 Yankees with the last name of Robinson, 7 more named Jones and another 7 named Smith.

Brown shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this former Yankee catcher.

1984 NYY 1 1 .500 2.70 13 0 7 0 0 0 16.2 18 5 5 1 4 10 1.320
4 Yrs 2 4 .333 4.88 34 0 17 0 0 0 51.2 68 31 28 4 14 27 1.587
MON (2 yrs) 0 2 .000 4.74 11 0 3 0 0 0 19.0 25 13 10 2 6 10 1.632
CAL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 7.31 10 0 7 0 0 0 16.0 25 13 13 1 4 7 1.813
NYY (1 yr) 1 1 .500 2.70 13 0 7 0 0 0 16.2 18 5 5 1 4 10 1.320
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/15/2014.