The Yankees Phil Up the Eighth Inning

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The Yankees Phil Up the Eighth Inning
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

After Brian Bruney blew the hold against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, he had yet to pitch in another game for the Yankees until yesterday. At that moment in the Tuesday night game, I said to myself that Phil Hughes should remain in the game as he cruised through a nine pitch seventh inning. But Girardi stuck to the book and here came his "eighth inning guy."

After that game Yankee manager Joe Girardi was asked if Bruney would remain his guy to go to in the eighth inning.

Girardi said, "He's our eighth inning guy right now," Girardi said. "We expect him to pitch better. I know he has not pitched great since he's come back off the DL. He's had some good outings and he's had some tough outings. ...He's had success in that role."

Asked repeatedly about his chances of remaining the "eighth inning guy" for the team, Bruney has repeatedly taken the high road, saying he doesn't care who gets the outs. 

"There is the 9th inning guy (Mariano Rivera) and everybody else," said Bruney. "As long as we win the game, I don't care who gets the outs." 

Good team concept by Brian—something the Yankees need in the face of a media driven "problem." Next time when asked, Bruney would be wise to point to his ring finger on his left hand and say, "See this finger? I want a World Series ring on it next year, and it doesn't matter how it gets there."
 
Entering the eighth inning Friday afternoon,* the Yankees held a 3-2 lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. With power hitting lefty Adam Lind due up, Yankee manager Joe Girardi sent for LHP Phil Coke and not Brian Bruney to start the eighth inning. It was a smart move as Coke has been ultra-effective the last month and great against lefties.

* I absolutely love daytime games, and in this wrap around series (four games over the Friday-Monday weekend) with the Blue Jays, the Yankees will host four straight day games. There should be more of these contests, even on weekdays. Nothing better than taking a few breaks at work, watching a ballgame.

However, when Coke was removed it wasn't Bruney who came in to get the last two outs, but it was Hughes who came running in from the bullpen. Hughes did the job, and after an Alex Rodriguez HR and one-two-three ninth for Rivera, the Yankees had another win.

What is the big deal about who pitches what inning? Although I have never been a big Brian Bruney fan, I feel for him because he has to answer the same questions over and over. And he has answered them the same way every time.

I disagree what Girardi said about defining roles. "When guys have defined roles, they know when they're going to pitch," Girardi said. "And they can start preparing mentally a little bit earlier. I think that helps them.

"The other thing that does is that I think it keeps you from wearing one guy out. A lot of times if you have a guy who's pitching extremely well, all of a sudden, you've used him five out of six days...And then you start wearing the guy out. And then he starts going backwards."

I never have been a "this is your role" type of baseball guy. Whenever the manager calls your name, you come in a get guys out. Doesn't matter if you are great at "missing bats" or a good "ground ball pitcher." Just get hitters out—whenever you are in the game.

And in regards to wearing a guy out by pitching him too much, a manager is the one who makes the decisions. They should use all their pitchers, not just the ones who are hot. A manager needs to have confidence in all his pitchers—or they don't belong on the team.

It's interesting, but the Yankee minor league teams alternate their relief pitchers on a every other day status (or every three days), but the guys usually go more than one inning at a time. Only the closers will go multiple days in a row.

It appears the players don't care what their roles are. Bruney's comments above reinforced his thoughts, and here is what Coke said about roles: "We've got a great plan," Coke said.

"Whoever [Girardi] decides to throw out there has been the right choice, so regardless if I'm facing one guy or two, whatever combination is getting thrown out there is working. When the phone rings, it's like the chow bell," he said. "It's time to get going."

Just get out there and pitch. No matter who it is or what inning they are in. In fact, Saturday afternoon's game saw Bruney enter in the seventh inning, and while he struggled by allowing two hits and a walk, he escaped unscathed...and the Yankees ended up winning the game. The entire Yankee bullpen allowed a single run in six-and-two-thirds innings yesterday.

Even the oft-ridiculed Brett Tomko pitched a scoreless inning and got the win.

A few weeks ago I was watching a baseball game and I was flipping back and forth between the game and the MLB Network, which had highlights of the 1972 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland A's.

Every time I flipped to the World Series highlights, Rollie Fingers was on the mound pitching. I thought that Fingers couldn't have pitched that much. However, in checking the records I saw that Fingers pitched in six of the seven games, with a 1-1 record, a hold, two saves and a blown hold. He threw back to back once, and three straight days another part of the series.

What was truly amazing is not how much Fingers pitched, but when he came into the game. He entered Game One in the sixth inning (1.2 IP), Game Two in the ninth (.1 IP), Game Three in the eighth (1.2 IP), Game Four in the ninth (1.0 IP), Game Five in the fifth (3.2 IP) and Game Seven in the eighth (2.0 IP).

It did not matter to the A's manager Dick Williams when he brought in his best reliever. Get the big outs when you need them.

The role he was brought into apparently did not matter to Fingers either as I could not find any evidence of him griping that he was the closer and no evidence of any media member trying to create a story about it. It should be pointed out that Fingers threw all those innings and games while he was only 25 years old!

His arm did not fall off and all those appearances did not short-circuit a Hall of Fame career.

Fingers pitched when he was called upon and has that 1972 World Series Ring on his left hand.
 
Similar to the one Bruney might have on his hand come October.

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