Posted by: JoeD2133 | April 5, 2008

4/4: Rays 13, Yankees 4

The bullpen door opened slowly, begrudgingly.

After a few, quiet moments of hesitation, the bent, blue wall spit Kyle Farnsworth onto the misty-wet grass of the Yankee Stadium outfield.  Jogging in cadence toward the rising mound in the middle of the diamond, the stadium looked half empty to Kyle.  He scanned the upper deck with a curiosity reserved for public school children on a fieldtrip, not professional athletes, and could actually see backs turned toward him now.  The disgusted, intoxicated fans filed like Lemmings into the evenly-spaced tunnels, indifferent or unaware of the pitcher’s entrance.

                How did it come to this, Kyle thought to himself, his cleats digging into the firm sand of the infield for a few, long strides, then back into grass.  This isn’t what I expect.  The place looks different and sounds different when Mariano – or that other kid – enters the game.

                Kyle climbed the back of the mound now, already frustrated and jaded by circumstance.  His manager handed him the ball, seemingly without a word.  His teammates slowly backed away.

There is no lonelier place in baseball than Kyle Farnsworth on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

                How did it come to this, he repeated in his mind, over and over, louder and louder with each angry, bitter, warm-up pitch.  Is that Bon Jovi I hear, playing in the background?

                Then, as if coming into a 10-4 game in the eighth inning to mop up for Latroy Hawkins’ perfect mess wasn’t answer enough, Kyle promptly put an exclamation point on the reason for his present status in the Bronx.  Whether it was the second or third pitch to Carlos Pena, I cannot remember.  But no sooner had I turned to my half-asleep, fully-pregnant wife and said, “Watch this, honey”, did Pena destroy a straight fastball from The Farns into the upper, upper deck in right field.

                First batter, second or third pitch, three-run home run.  Nice.

                And Pena hit that pitch a mile – I mean, absolutely hammered it – and there wasn’t a fan in attendance, or in front of a television set, or even behind the wheel of a moving car who didn’t see it coming.  That is how you came to this, Kyle.  Through your own, consistently inconsistent, mind-numbing performances on the field of play (he would go on to strike out three in one-and-a-third innings of work).   That is why you are coming into a 10-4 game, in the eighth inning, to mop up the perfect mess that is Latroy Hawkins.

                Heads were shaking last night, from 161st Street to the Bowery.

It hurts just to think about, doesn’t it?

                Looking back now, yesterday as a whole was not a good day for the New York Yankees.  For a reduced sentence (two games instead of three), Melky Cabrera and Shelly Duncan both agreed not to appeal their suspensions stemming from a Spring Training brawl with these very same Tampa Bay Rays. And Joe Girardi, only his fourth day on the job, succumbed to an upper-respiratory infection shortly before game time that kept him from managing in the dugout.  On top of that gloomy forecast, the skies above New York were still gray and dreary from an April weather system that will not go away.

                Then there was the issue of Ian Kennedy, our other young-stud starter, whose pitching line for the night (two-and-a-third, 4 hits, 4 walks, 6 earned runs) was only slightly outdone by that of Hawkins’ line in relief  (two-thirds, 7 hits, 6 earned runs).  After much younger, much cheaper, and thus much more inspiring relievers Jonathan Albaledejo, Ross Ohlendorf, and Billy Traber worked four-and-two-thirds scoreless innings to keep the Yankees in a 6-4 game, Hawkins and Farnsworth combined to give up nine hits and seven runs in one inning of work to catapult the game out of reach.

                Excuse me?

                Nine hits and seven runs.  In one inning.  And these are the two guys that Cashman gave “guaranteed” jobs to in Spring Training, the same guys who are “supposed” to handle the eighth inning if or when Joba Chamberlain is converted back into a starter this season.

                The mere thought of this scenario just made the rock that is Manhattan shudder.  Did you feel it?

                Keep Joba right where he is, Cashman, keep bringing up young, talented, and hungry relievers who can work scoreless frames, and keep praying Hawkins and Farnsworth never have to pitch in a game-on-line situation in September.  Just because you pay them more, doesn’t mean you have to pitch them more.  Survival of the fittest is a widely-known, and hugely successful, concept – is  it not?

                Oh, what a pair these two relievers make.  One gets booed on Opening Day – Opening Day for crying out loud – and the other gets serenaded with chants of “Paul O’Neil” while embroiled in a six-run outing, simply because he’s wearing the number twenty-one on his back (for the record, The Warrior did admit the other night that the sight of Hawkins with his number is “a little weird”).

                Enough.

The beautiful part about the game of baseball, especially in April, is that there is always another game to play.  And this means that there is always another chance to turn things around.  For the sake of the rock that is Manhattan, and the conflicted conscience of the bent, blue bullpen door in center, I pray that Hawkins and Farnsworth take full advantage of each chance they are given this season.

Here’s to today’s brand new game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

All rise for The Honorable Mr. Pettitte.

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