Normally, I am of the mindset that a pitcher, any pitcher, should be able to get out both lefty and right handed hitters. Those that cannot work both sides really shouldn't be in the majors.
In the mid 80's, Tony LaRussa changed the major league mindset during his Oakland A's managerial days when he instituted the lefty specialist, giving the ball to Rick Honeycutt almost every day to face just one batter (or so it seemed). A former All-Star starter for over 10 seasons, Honeycutt never once equaled total innings pitched in a season to his amount of appearances made during his final eight major league seasons.
Also, in the 1987 World Series, St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog used Ken Dayley as a Kent Hrbek specialist, repeatedly neutralizing the slugging Minnesota Twins first baseman. This is until Hrbek blasted a game-breaking grand slam of Dayley in Game 6.
Win some, lose some in this funny game.
But the Yankees have possibly overworked their only lefty reliever, Phil Coke. He has been terrific this season, oftentimes dominating the opposition like he did in the 7th inning last night in Seattle, whiffing Ken Griffey, Jr. with two men on. He then struck out his first two guys in the eighth inning, and threw 1.2 innings in the game. Coke could use some help, and the Yankees have a guy who should be promoted now to the majors.
Over the last two seasons, this LHP has produced a combined 14-1 win-loss record and sparkling 1.92 ERA. So far this season, lefties are hitting .169 against him. Right handed hitters aren't faring much better, only hitting .202, but they do get on base much more.
This pitcher seems to pitch away from right handed hitters more, issuing 18 free passes this season (AAA) in only 37 innings.
He is the perfect one batter, lefty relief specialist but can go multiple innings if need be. He can spell Coke, the only current lefty reliever on the Yankee roster. Coke has made 56 appearances this season, near the top in the American League.
Who is this lefty artist toiling away down in AAA when he can help the Yankees down the stretch?
Damaso Marte you ask? Never. Don't even get me started on that trade last season.*
*But while I'm up.... Ross Ohlendorf has 10 wins starting for the Pirates (yes, you read that correctly) and Daniel McCutchen is dominating AAA right now, but either guy could be in the Yankees rotation as the #5 starter. And Jose Tabata has hit well in every level of the Pirates organization,and is now at Triple AAA.
Marte is a waste and Nady never really helped last year and will never again play for the Yankees after undergoing his SECOND Tommy John surgery. I never liked that trade at the beginning and it looks even worse now. Brian Cashman has performed some nice minor trades recently (Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston, Jr.), but that one last year just plain sucked.
Anyway, why is Zachary Kroenke not in the Bronx right now? Or actually in Seattle where the Yanks are playing?
Kroenke was almost lost last off season in the Rule 5 draft, when the Florida Marlins selected him. At the time, the Marlins thought they had their lefty specialist for 2009. And why wouldn't they think that? Kroenke was 7-0 in AA and AA last year and again pitched well against lefties.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Kroenke was terrible in the spring and was offered back. The Yankees gladly accepted.
Kroenke was a teammate of Joba's at the University of Nebraska and since being a 2005 5th round pick, have moved slowly up the Yankee chain. He needs to be put on the 40 man this off season to protect him, or surely some team will draft him again--and keep him.
His walk rates are very high against right-handed batter, and while he has shown that he can go multiple innings (he has also started 2 games this year), his role on the big club would be solely as a lefty specialist--at least at the beginning. I also want to point out that the Yankees organization trains most of their relievers to go multiple innings.
Let's say that Joba or Mitre has thrown a ton of pitches into the 6th inning (not improbable!), and a lefty comes up with two outs. This is the perfect spot for a guy like Kroenke to ease him into the fray during less strenuous situations.
His presence would spell Coke for more important lefties and situations late in the game.
The Yankees should drop a guy off the 40 man now, someone they will never, ever need or use like Kevin Cash or Andrew Brackman. Or they can keep those winners and 60 day Chien-Ming Wang or Xavier Nady.
If the Yankees are waiting for the September call-ups before bringing him up, the Yankees need to be a 40 man move anyway, so might as well get it done now.
Just get Kroenke to the Bronx before Coke's arm falls off.