Commentary

Pendleton impresses in Yankees debut

Reliever pitches three perfect innings to cap surreal day that started in Triple-A

Updated: April 16, 2011, 3:34 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- At 3:10 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Lance Pendleton got the call every guy who toils in the minor leagues for several years dreams of: he was heading to "The Show."

About six hours later -- after picking up his wife and son, dropping off his dog, making the two-hour drive from Scranton to the Bronx and arriving just 45 minutes before the game -- Pendleton found himself on the mound, making his major league debut out of the bullpen for the New York Yankees.

You really can't make this stuff up if you tried.

"I called my wife and told her," said Pendleton, who wound up tossing three perfect innings and striking out the first two batters he faced in the Yankees' 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Friday night. "First off she thought I was joking. We have a little secret, where there's one word [MLB] that you say you can't joke, if we say that word. And then she started crying and said 'What are we gonna do? What does this mean?'

"I said 'I don't know. I have no idea. I know we're driving to New York, and past that I have no idea."

If he continues to hurl like he did on Friday night, he'll probably stick around a little longer.

After entering at the start the start of the seventh inning, Pendleton struck out Elvis Andrus and Michael Young. He went on to retire the next seven hitters he faced, giving the Yankees a chance to comeback in the ninth.

Unfortunately, for the 27-year-old rookie, it didn't happen. Still, it was a day he'll never forget for the rest of his life.

"It's just so surreal," said Pendleton, who spent six years in the minors after being selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2005 June Amateur Draft. "Like I said, it hasn't hit me. The more I think about it I say 'Wow! That's something!'"

"I was impressed," said manager Joe Girardi. "For the first time pitching at Yankee Stadium against a team that went to the World Series last year, I was impressed."

Pendleton woke up on Friday morning thinking he'd be with the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in Scranton. But struggling starter Phil Hughes was placed on the disabled list, which meant a roster spot had opened up. The Yankees decided to call-up Pendleton, and promptly threw him right into the fire.

"I just tried to step back and locate my pitches and stay within myself," Pendleton said. "Every high fastball that I threw I told myself 'You gotta come down. You're letting it rip. You can't do that.' I was fortunate to control my emotions and execute those pitches. I felt very fortunate to do that."

After the game, Pendleton was presented with the lineup card. And later, he found out, he'd get the baseball that he used to fan Andrus.

"I didn't know the Yankees got the ball. I'd like to see that thing. I definitely can appreciate it," Pendleton said. "When I struck the first guy out I said 'Wow! That's a good job. The first batter I faced.' Even the first pitch I said 'Good job, even though it was a ball.' I wish I would've thrown a strike on my first big-league pitch, but it is what it is. It was neat having the crowd. After that third inning they cheered for me a little bit. It felt really good. It was nice."

Pendleton, who was returned to the Yankees in March after being select in the Rule 5 Draft by the Houston Astros, said he had butterflies, but was glad to get his first professional outing over with right away.

"Everything happened so quickly," said Pendleton, who noted that he drove fast to make it to the ballpark in time. "I told my dad I hope I did pitch tonight and get the first one out of the way. I'm so stupid right now I won't know the difference. And when I got out there I had some butterflies going."

"I went back out in that second inning and I was definitely a little more nervous that I was in that first inning. I threw a couple balls and I said 'Man, don't let this happen. Let's calm down and keep attacking the hitters.' Fortunately enough I was able to control my emotions. It still hasn't sunk in yet."

Pendleton, who went 1-1 with a 1.59 earned-run average in 5 2/3 innings with Scranton, was asked if he envisioned a debut like this one.

"I didn't know what I was envisioning really," Pendleton said. "I got a wife and son and I was more flustered getting that setup here. I got a dog too, so we had to get someone to take care of him. It probably all worked in my favor that I didn't have an opportunity to think too much. But I couldn't written that any better than I wished we would've won.

"But if we were winning I probably wouldn't have pitched."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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