Commentary

Moseley is no overnight sensation

Starter had evening to get ready for Sox, but he's actually been preparing for months

Updated: August 9, 2010, 10:22 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The game Dustin Moseley pitched against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night was not won so much on the Yankee Stadium mound, or in the bullpen or in his apartment Saturday night, where, unbeknownst to just about everyone but he and his manager, he was poring over scouting reports and spray charts in preparation for a key start that was supposed to belong to A.J. Burnett.

No, this one was probably won back around last Thanksgiving, on a high school track in Texarkana, Texas, where Moseley decided it was high time for a showdown with his cranky right hip, which had undergone the same kind of surgery that had sidelined Alex Rodriguez a year before.

"I was three months post-op and it wasn't feeling any better. In fact, it was feeling worse," Moseley said. "Now, I'm starting to wonder, 'OK, did we diagnose this thing right? Because I might have to go back to these guys and have it done all over again.'"

With that in mind, Moseley began to jog around the quarter-mile track. No better. "So I decided I'm just gonna get after it and see how it feels."

[+] EnlargeDustin Moseley
Al Bello/Getty ImagesDustin Moseley tips his hat to an appreciative Yankee Stadium crowd as he exits in the seventh.

He ran more laps, faster and faster, until finally he was practically at a full sprint. Then he came back the next day and did it again. And the day after that and the day after that.

"I don't know if I broke up the scar tissue or what, but I just got better and better and went on from there," he said. "Really, it was an amazing recovery."

That might well have been the day Dustin Moseley planted the seed for the game he pitched Sunday night, stifling the Red Sox with his mixture of sinkers and cutters, none of them over 90 mph, holding a still-potent lineup to an anemic two runs in 6 1/3 innings to lead the Yankees to a key 7-2 victory.

Or it may have been the day in late January when he finally began throwing again. Or the day he decided, on the advice of his agent and at the urging of GM Brain Cashman, to take his chances with the Yankees as a non-roster invitee in spring training. Or maybe the day Billy Connors showed him how to throw the cutter during his first week in camp.

Whenever it was, Moseley's success did not happen overnight, although it might certainly seem that way.

Saturday night, while the Yankees were publicly fretting over the status of Alex Rodriguez -- injured in a freak batting-practice injury that knocked him out of the starting lineup -- they were privately even more concerned about Burnett, the scheduled Sunday night starter who had come up sore after a light throwing session earlier in the day.

In fact, they had already told Moseley he would be starting in the pivotal Sunday night game, the one that would be nationally televised on ESPN and, more importantly, the one that might decide whether the Red Sox were going to be active participants in a three-team AL East scuffle or the show horse in a three-horse race.

"It helped to know [Saturday night]," Moseley said. "I had all the paperwork, got to study all the hitters, came in early this morning and looked at video to prepare myself."

And from the first play of the game -- a difficult squib off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury that forced Moseley to test that repaired hip with a barehand scoop, a whirl and peg to first that nipped the speedy Boston center fielder -- it was obvious that neither his injury-marred past nor the supercharged moment would get the best of him on this night.

"I'm not sure we have another pitcher who can make that play," Joe Girardi said. "He really set the tone right there."

Moseley's finest moment came in the fourth, when he loaded the bases with two outs on a single and two walks, and then got Ryan Kalish -- who crushed the Yankees with a two-run homer in Friday night's 6-3 Boston win -- to roll over on a cutter and bounce harmlessly to Mark Teixeira for the final out.

"That was huge," said Moseley, who could be seen heaving a sigh of relief and mouthing the words "Thank you" toward the heavens as he left the field.

In truth, he has a lot to be thankful for, from his uneventful recovery from ulnar nerve relocation surgery before the 2008 season, to the hip surgery that repaired a torn labrum in August 2009, to Cashman's promise that the Yankees would give him all the time he needed to rehab himself in spring training.

"They told me they used 20-something pitchers last season and that they bring everyone in for a reason, because they think we can pitch," Moseley said. "Everyone else wanted to see multiple bullpens from me but the Yankees said, 'We know what you can do.'"

So Sunday night, he went out and did it, and that's what kind of a season it has been so far for the Yankees. If it hasn't been Juan Miranda, it's been Colin Curtis or Chad Huffman. On Saturday, A-Rod goes down an hour before the game and Ramiro Peña steps in with two big RBIs.

On Sunday, Dustin Moseley comes into as pressure-filled an atmosphere as Major League Baseball can offer and pitches as if he's been in these situations his whole life.

"You felt the energy as soon as you went out there," he said. "Even in the bullpen, you could feel the energy that was going throughout the crowd. You definitely felt it. I tried my best to keep my composure and just make my pitches."

Composure has never been a problem for Moseley, who is no kid at 28 and no rookie, having pitched in four previous seasons for the L.A. Angels. That composure is the biggest reason the Yankees stood pat on starting pitchers at the trade deadline despite the groin injury that landed Andy Pettitte on the DL, and why Girardi tabbed Moseley to take Pettitte's spot in the rotation after Sergio Mitre's one-game audition flamed out.

"I wasn't concerned about him handling it," said Girardi, who turned out to be absolutely right.

The Yankees' lineup, which has tormented Josh Beckett all season long, exploded for five runs in the fifth inning to tear open a tense 2-1 contest. Meanwhile, Moseley sailed largely unmolested through six innings before giving way to a procession of relievers -- Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Robertson, and just to make sure, Mariano Rivera -- after allowing an infield single and a walk in the seventh.

"I've got faith in the guys coming in behind me," Moseley said.

When he returned to his locker, Moseley discovered more than 40 text messages on his phone, a new personal record, all from folks back home in Arkansas who had watched the game on ESPN.

"Everyone who knows me knows what I've been through, and how hard I've worked to get here," he said.

Asked if there was ever a point during his long recovery from the two surgeries when he considered giving up, Moseley said, "You always dream. You gotta dream. If you don't, what have you got?"

On a night dominated by big names -- Derek Jeter leapfrogged Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list with a second inning single that gave him 2,874, and A-Rod joined Willie Mays and Barry Bonds on the short list of major leaguers to have 600 home runs and 300 steals -- no name was bigger than Dustin Moseley's.

That is something not even he could have dreamed of, last November, or last night.

GAME NOTES: Teixeira hit his 25th homer in the fifth to put himself on a short list of major leaguers who have hit 25 or more in each of his first eight seasons. The others are Eddie Mathews, Albert Pujols and Darryl Strawberry. ... Chamberlain got himself in some trouble, allowing an infield hit and walking Marco Scutaro, but Logan retired all four hitters he faced. ... Girardi went to Rivera to nail down the final out after Robertson walked Ellsbury to give the Sox two runners on in the ninth. ... Lance Berkman got three hits, two doubles, an RBI, scored two runs and actually heard some cheers from the crowd for his first time as a Yankee. ... Monday's matchup: Phil Hughes (13-4, 3.96) vs. LHP Jon Lester (11-7, 3.07). Note unusual start time: 2:05 p.m.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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