Based on their recent flurry of acquisitions, it’s clear the Yankees are loading up on backup starting pitching…and rightfully so.
Joba Chamberlain, the No. 4 starter, is rapidly approaching his innings limit. While no one outside the organization is sure exactly what it is—most have it pegged between 140 and 160—what is known is that heading through Thursday, Joba has pitched 115 2/3 innings so far this year.
Averaging six innings a start, he’ll hit his cap anywhere between four and seven starts from now, which puts him in the rotation until mid-September at best. The ideal situation would be to work the rotation so that he is skipped as much as possible...but that just isn't feasible because the current No. 5, Sergio Mitre, has been less than stellar.
Quite frankly, he’s been mediocre—and there’s a reason the rotation was reshuffled around an off day so he pitched Wednesday night in Toronto instead of over the weekend against Boston.
In four starts since being recalled, Mitre has pitched exactly 18 innings and allowed 15 runs. And after lasting just three innings against the White Sox last weekend, Mitre was pulled in the fifth inning on Wednesday night. The Yankees are inexplicably 3-1 in his starts, but they can’t let him pitch against the Baltimores, Torontos and Oaklands of the world forever.
To compensate, the Yankees have traded for Jason Hirsh (currently at Triple-A) and Chad Gaudin, and signed Russ Ortiz to a minor-league deal. They also have plenty of options in both their bullpen (Phil Hughes & Alfredo Aceves) and at Triple-A Scranton (including former fifth starter Kei Igawa &
reclamation project Josh Towers), so they should be able to make it work.
Just for fun, however, here’s a look at six former Bombers the Yanks could bring back if their internal options don’t seem to be the right ones.
While his best days are clearly behind him, Ponson could still be serviceable as a No. 5 starter.
The Royals designated him for assignment on Tuesday when they brought Kyle Davies back up from AAA Omaha, but you know what they say: One man's trash is another man’s treasure.
And it wouldn’t be the first time the Yanks picked up Ponson off the scrap heap.
Just last year, Texas parted ways with the big Aruban—more because of his issues off the field rather than his bad pitching, as he was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA as a Ranger—and he responded by going 4-4 with a 5.85 ERA in 15 starts in the Bronx. Not the best numbers, but at one point he was the No. 3 starter, behind Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina.
He was also a Yankee in 2006, but he got bombed in three starts and was quickly turfed out.
This year looks more like ’06 than ’08, as Ponson was 1-7 with a 7.36 ERA before being DFA’ed this week. Granted, the Royals aren’t very good, but a 7.36 ERA is still bad no matter where you are.
Could Ponson be the answer? Stats and past history say yes, but not a good one.
Long-time Yankees' fans will surely remember Ramiro as a big part of the bullpen during the World Series years. Originally a starter—much like that other Panamanian fella, Mariano something-or-other—Mendoza bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen his entire career.
From 1996-2002, Mendoza went 54-34 as a Yankee, kept his ERA around four and finished (55) almost as many games as he started (57). But no matter when or where he pitched, Mendoza gave the Yankees quality innings and was a fan favorite. That is, until he went to Boston in 2003.
Injuries derailed his career, and he hasn’t been seen in the majors since Sept. 1, 2005, when he made his last appearance as a Yankee to pitch the ninth inning of a 5-1 loss to Seattle.
But he’s still around, and after pitching for Panama in the WBC and going to camp with the Brewers, Mendoza currently plays for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.
And he hasn’t been bad, going 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in eight appearances (six starts) for the Bears. He’s also struck out 30 batters in 40 innings, well above his career average.
Sure, he’s 37 now, but you can’t truly say he hasn’t faced major league hitting in four years—the Atlantic League is full of MLB washouts. Heck, the Bears themselves have about 10 of them, some of which (like Willie Banks, Armando Benitez and Alberto Castillo) are also former Yanks.
Have left arm, will travel…and boy, has Halsey lived up to that.
Babyfaced lefty Brad Halsey got his first taste of the bigs in 2004, when the pitching-strapped Yankees called him up from Double-A to take a spot in the rotation.
The cleverly-nicknamed "Admiral" won his first start against the Dodgers, but after that, was hit or miss. But after a great start on the final day of the season against Toronto (5 innings of one-run ball), Halsey finished 1-3 with a 6.47 ERA, and Yankee fans looked forward to his future development.
Three months later, he was gone. He had been traded to Arizona with Javier Vazquez and Dioner Navarro for Randy Johnson.
Halsey spent 2005 in the D-Backs rotation, going 8-12 with a 4.61 ERA in 26 starts. After being traded to Oakland the following spring, he spent 2006 mostly in the A’s bullpen as a long reliever and was one of the final cuts in spring training 2007.
A shoulder injury cost him most of 2007, and after a couple years in the A’s and Dodgers’ minor league systems, Halsey found refuge in the Atlantic League.
This season, Halsey most recently pitched for the Long Island Ducks, going 3-5 with a 5.86 ERA before being released about five weeks ago.
That means he’s a free agent, and can be brought into the organization for a second go-round. Hey, he’s only 28, and while his fastball tops out at 90…so does Sergio Mitre’s. Plus, Halsey is a lefty.
At the very least, he could replace someone at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if they get called up instead.
DePaula wasn’t a Yankee for long, but that wasn’t really all his fault.
A September callup in 2003, DePaula made his first career start in the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore—and pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball.
His season totals: 11 1/3 innings, one run, three hits, one BB, seven K. Yankee fans were excited, and rightfully so.
Then 2004 happened. He made the team out of spring training, but after three appearances, he became a victim of Tommy John surgery. He missed all of ’04, but by 2005, he was back—and after a pretty good season in Triple-A (4-2, 4.58 ERA, 90 K in 113 IP)—and he made it back to the bigs.
He probably wishes he didn’t.
DePaula made three relief appearances but looked nothing like the possible dominator he was in 2003. His one big outing came in relief of Al Leiter—who got shelled and lasted less than an inning against Oakland—and DePaula got lit up to the tune of six runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Just like that, his Yankee career was over.
After a bad minor league season in 2006, he was jettisoned and caught on with Colorado, spending 2007 in their system before heading north of the border in 2008 to sign with the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the Golden Baseball League.
Now pitching in the Dominican Republic, DePaula is only 30, and those who remember him would surely give him a warm welcome back.
This is the least likely, as outside of the World Baseball Classic, Loaiza hasn’t pitched since last summer—when he made three relief appearances for the White Sox.
But in a fun nod to history, the last time he was a Yankee…he came to the Bronx from the White Sox.
The Yanks traded Jose Contreras to the Windy City for Loaiza at the trade deadline. Loaiza pitched somewhat poorly in the regular season (1-2, 8.50 ERA in 10 appearances) and was banished to the bullpen. But he was excellent in the postseason, allowing only one run in 8 1/3 innings over three appearances.
For his career, Loaiza has a 4.65 ERA in 377 appearances (333 starts), which isn’t terrible, considering he spent more than half his time in the American League.
He might be a viable option if the Yanks have time to wait for him to get stretched out (a la the Red Sox' signing of Paul Byrd), but instead, they might want to try to find someone else who has pitched this year, someone like…
Yes, the man who became a beloved cult hero for one summer in the Bronx and truly proved the trash vs. treasure adage.
Yankee fans will always remember Chacon from the fateful summer of 2005, when the rotation seemed to be, to paraphrase an old poem, “Unit and Moose and whoever can get loose.”
Chacon went from mediocre starter to average closer back to mediocre starter, and when the Rockies traded him to New York at the 2005 trade deadline, even the most optimistic of Yankees' fans were skeptical.
But Chacon killed that noise, going 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA down the stretch to help will the Yankees to the AL East Title. He also pitched well in the playoffs, giving up only two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game Four of the ALDS.
Unfortunately, he crashed back down to Earth in 2006—5-3 but a 7.00 ERA in 17 appearances (11 starts)—before being shipped to Pittsburgh for Craig Wilson at the 2006 deadline.
Chacon put up decent numbers in the NL for two and a half years, but a sketchy incident with Houston GM Ed Wade left him unemployed last June. Unable to find a home for the rest of 2008 or 2009, Chacon signed with the Newark Bears on May 1.
Six weeks later, he was picked up by the Athletics' organization and is currently at Triple-A Sacramento—where he has gone 4-4 with a 6.94 ERA in nine starts.
So his overall numbers aren’t that great…but looking at his stats will tell you that Chacon’s career year came as a Yankee. And since the A’s also just signed the recently-released Brett Tomko, Billy Beane owes us one.
And besides, look at that awesome hat!