Success, excess for Yankees
News and notes from around the majors, including Gary Sheffield's acclimation to life in the Bronx Zoo.
Imagine though, if the Yankees didn't have a 9½-game lead coming into the weekend, and hadn't come back from an almost certain 2-0 hole in their series with Oakland, only to rebound in extra innings on Wednesday and knock the A's out of first place the next afternoon. New York has already exceeded last year's 41 come-from-behind wins, but of course in the Big Apple, it has to be analyzed as to why that is a bad thing. The subtext is, the Yankees starting pitching isn't doing much of a job, digging frequent, early holes. But with the brilliance of Kevin Brown on Thursday, if he can stay healthy, and Mike Mussina's return, that situation could be well on its way to mending.
They are able to stage comebacks, not only because of a powerful lineup, but also because their bullpen keeps them in games. Although my colleague Jeff Brantley doesn't see Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera being 1-2-3 in the league in appearances as a concern, most people do. All on the far side of 35 years old with considerable wear and tear in recent seasons, Quantrill is also pitching on one leg, with a knee brace on his left that makes what he's accomplishing all the more remarkable. Quantrill's on pace to go over 80 appearances for the third straight year, and probably could hit 90 which would give him a third straight season of new career standards in games. Only Mike Marshall and Kent Tekulve have been used more in as short a span. Marshall logged 263 appearances from 1972-74, (including the all-time record 106 in 1974), Tekulve doing the same from 1978-80. Both of them were just turning 30 at the time. If Quantrill's knees hold up, (they're both troublesome) and he hits 90 appearances, (which would tie him with Marshall for the AL record), he'll have 265 trips to the mound in the last three seasons and 345 in the last four. Unprecedented. After that daily trio, there's little else. Felix Heredia's been shipped out to the Billy Connors re-finishing school, and C.J. Nitkowski is now with his sixth organization, and trying to do what he couldn't in pitching-starved stops like Detroit, Cincinnati, and Texas.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.