Forgotten New York Yankees of the Past 4 Decades: "L"
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This series will focus on the less remembered players to wear pinstripes over the last four decades (1970s-2000s).
Today's letter of the day is "L."
Estaban Loaiza (2004)
Estaban Loaiza was 21-9 with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and finished second for the AL Cy Young Award. New York had an interest in acquiring Loaiza as the 2004 trading deadline neared.
To help solidify their rotation, the Yankees traded pitcher Jose Contreras to Chicago for Loaiza on July 31, 2004.
Loaiza struggled as soon as he arrived in the Bronx. He allowed five runs in each of his first two starts. In his next three starts, Loaiza allowed a total of 12 runs and 21 hits.
After struggling as a starter, Loaiza was sent to the bullpen. In his first relief appearance, he allowed six runs in three innings in a 22-0 loss to Cleveland on Aug. 31. Loaiza returned to the starting rotation on Sept. 21 against Toronto and earned his only Yankees win in a 5-3 victory.
After a 1-2 record and an 8.50 ERA in 10 appearances, Loaiza was assigned to the bullpen for the postseason. He pitched two scoreless innings in the ALDS as New York advanced to face Boston for the AL pennant.
Loaiza entered Game 4 of ALCS with the teams tied at 4 in the bottom of the 11th with runners at first and second and one out. He induced Orlando Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play. Loaiza eventually suffered the loss after giving up David Ortiz's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 14th.
After the season, Loaiza signed a free-agent contract with Washington and won 12 games for the Nationals in 2005.
Mark Leiter (1990)
Most baseball fans remember pitcher Al Leiter, who pitched a no-hitter and won a World Series with Florida. Not as well-known is Al's older brother, Mark.
Mark was drafted by Baltimore in 1983, but he did not make his major league debut until July 24, 1990, with the Yankees.
In the middle of a last-place season, Leiter made his first start on July 31. He earned his first win after allowing four runs over 7.1 innings in a 10-4 win over Detroit.
Leiter returned to the bullpen for his next three appearances before returning to the rotation. After a no-decision against Baltimore, Leiter started the next-to-last game of the season. He limited the Tigers to one run on four hits over seven innings but again settled for a no-decision after leaving the game with the score tied 1-1. The Yankees eventually won, 4-1.
Leiter finished the season 1-1 with a 6.84 ERA. In addition, 11 of his 21 strikeouts came in his final two starts.
Leiter was traded to Detroit for infielder Torey Lovullo on March 19, 1991. He won 64 games over the next 10 seasons with seven teams.
Joe Lefebvre (1980)
New York acquired Ruppert Jones to be its starting center fielder in 1980. When Jones went down with an injury in May, Joe Lefebvre was called up from Triple-A Columbus to replace him.
In his major league debut on May 22 at Toronto, Lefebvre homered off of Blue Jays starter Dave Stieb. He also homered the next day while adding two RBIs.
Over his first six games, Lefebvre batted .474 (9-19) with two home runs and six RBIs. He continued to hit well in June with a pair of three-hit games and drove in four runs against Oakland.
Jones came off the disabled list in July, and Lefebvre returned to Triple-A. He returned in August and started six games while also serving as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Lefebvre was on the roster for the ALCS against Kansas City, however his only appearance was as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 3.
Hal Lanier (1972-1973)
Infielder Hal Lanier played his first eight seasons in San Francisco before he made the cross-country trek to New York in 1972.
Lanier led the National League with 519 assists in 1967. The following season, he led all NL shortstops with 282 putouts and a .979 fielding percentage. At the plate, Lanier placed in the top 10 in sacrifice hits five times during the 1960s.
The Yankees purchased Lanier from the Giants on Feb. 2, 1972. He appeared in 95 games at second base, third base and shortstop. While he only hit .211 in his two seasons, Lanier helped to solidify the middle infield defense. He retired with a career .971 fielding percentage.
Lanier retired in 1973 following his two-year stint in the Bronx. He was named manager of the Houston Astros in 1986 and earned NL Manager of the Year honors after leading the team to a division title in his first season.
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