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Around the Yankee Universe: Brian Bruney edition

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Our New York Yankees were very fortunate to win last night after Brian Bruney imploded in the eighth inning, turning a two-run lead into a tie game.

Bruney, in my opinion, had no business being in the game in the first place. After Phil Hughes' dominant nine-pitch seventh inning Joe Girardi's removing him from the game can only be described one way. Dumb. I even jumped into last night's Game Thread -- something I never do -- to say the same thing.

Girardi is a smart guy, and a pretty good manager. What he failed to do Tuesday, though, was use his eyes, and his brain. Girardi's eyes had to see that Hughes was dominant. His brain had to tell him that he could easily pitch a second inning, and that Bruney has been iffy since coming back off the DL.

Instead, he used his little managerial book that says 'Bruney is the eighth-inning guy, so he pitches no matter what when we are ahead.'

The only fun part for me is that I found this morning that two of my favorite mainstream bloggers, Peter Abraham of the Journal News and Mark Feinsand of the Daily News took completely different sides on the move.

Abraham defended Girardi.

Don’t blame Joe Girardi for using Bruney in the eighth inning. He, like every other manager, paints by numbers and Bruney is the Eighth Inning Guy. So if there is a lead, he pitches in the eighth inning.

You’d like to think common sense would come into play. Phil Hughes had just retired the side on nine pitches and was throwing 96. Just leave well enough alone. If you’re going to use him in the bullpen, then use him.

But the good of staying with Hughes was outweighed by the risk of somebody asking why Bruney didn’t pitch. Or somebody asking whether Hughes was now the Eighth Inning Guy.

Someday a manager will come along, throw the book away and just manage the game by what he sees with his eyes, not what he fears. But until then, don’t blame Girardi. He’s just doing what he’s trained to do.

Feinsand, on the other hand, called him out for that 'paint by the numbers' approach.

I’m not a big second-guesser most of the time, since I have to assume that most managers know more about baseball than I do. But I first-guessed Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Brian Bruney for Phil Hughes and still don’t really understand the logic.

Before the game, I asked Girardi if he would consider using Hughes in a two-inning setup role at times, much the way Mariano Rivera was used in 1996.

"I’m not hesitant to do that with him; I think he’s very capable of being a two- or three-inning reliever for us," Girardi said. "I wouldn’t do it to build up his innings; I’d do it because I believe he can do it and do it well."

So after watching Hughes retire the Mariners in order on nine pitches in the seventh, why not leave the kid in there to pitch the eighth? It has nothing to do with a lack of confidence in Bruney, but if you’re not going to leave Hughes in there after a nine-pitch inning, when would you do it?

Of course, Bruney came in and coughed up the lead. The Yankees wound up scoring three runs in the eighth and Rivera closed it out, but the idea that Bruney is the Yankees’ "eighth-inning guy" is ridiculous. Why not designate Bruney, Hughes, Phil Coke and whoever else you trust as your late-inning guys and let them all pitch those important innings? The way Hughes is pitching right now, he should be in there for as many innings as he can possibly throw.


The paint by the numbers approach is the Joe Torre 'Quan-Gor-Mo' school. I know a lot of managers subscribe to it. It's too rigid, though. When a guy is throwing as well as Hughes was Tuesday night, removing him is simply asking for trouble.

C'mon, Joe! Open your eyes.