Sometimes I like to read articles around the internet just to see if I can implement their analysis or commentary across a Yankees-centric article. In the middle of January it can be a surprisingly effective way to come up with a reason to write while absolutely nothing is happening. The Yankees especially like to go to sleep at this time of year it seems. So, instead of staying in our collective caves until spring training, I decided to have a little fun here and bring us all together for a grand adventure.
I came across an article on FanGraphs, written by Neil Weinberg, where he used Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to find the active relievers who started just one game in their major league careers. It was a fairly simple idea and easy to repeat. I got on B-Ref and searched for the pitchers who only started one game. To make this topical for my purposes, instead of looking at active players, I plucked those who started their game for the Yankees over the last 20 years. The results were a fun trip through memory lane and a weird exploration into baseball obscurity. Join me.
Ryan Bradley, 1998
Welcome to 1998, back when the Yankees had no idea what they were doing when it came to the MLB Draft. A reliever at Arizona State University, Bradley was selected 40th overall in the 1997 Draft. After spending 14 games in the bullpen at Low-A that year, the organization turned him into a starting pitcher the following season. He certainly saw success in Tampa, however, he was afforded only six starts between Double-A and Triple-A before he was pushed into the major league spotlight at the age of 22.
Bradley collected his first strikeout in a 1.2-inning debut that August, but the following day he allowed three runs on four hits in just one inning. Later that week he was given a start against the Angels on August 26th where he managed to strike out eight batters in 5.0 innings, but also surrendered five runs on seven hits and two walks. After his best Michael Pineda impression, Bradley wasn’t seen until mid-September for a few multi-inning appearances.
He was considered the team’s 25th-best prospect according to Baseball America that offseason. Bradley continued to struggle at the Triple-A level over the next two years before he was demoted in 2001 and then finally released in the middle of the 2002 season.
Jim Bruske, 1998
Bruske appeared in three games for the Yankees during the 1998 season, and one of those appearances happened to be his sole major league start. The right-hander had spent time as a starter during his minor league career in the early ‘90s, but he had transitioned to the bullpen once he was called up. The 1998 season proved to be a messy one for Bruske, spending time with three different teams that year. He spent a majority of the season with the Dodgers before he was traded to the Padres in July. After four games in San Diego, the Yankees acquired him in August.
Bruske pitched a few spare innings in September before he got the chance to start against the Devil Rays on September 27, the last day of the season. He provided the Yankees with one run on four hits over 5.0 innings as the best team in baseball won their 114th game of the year. After not playing at all in 1999, he was out of baseball following the 2000 season at the age of 35.
Mike Stanton, 1999
While Ryan Bradley was relegated back to the minors, another relief pitcher received his chance to start for the first and only time. Left-hander Mike Stanton was in his third season with the team and hoping to rebound from a disappointing season the year before. Over his first 14 appearances, however, Stanton had a 12.86 ERA in just 7.0 innings pitched. Then he received a chance to really do some good for his team.
On May 8th, Ramiro Mendoza was sick and unable to make his next start on the following day. At the time, Joe Torre was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, so acting manager Don Zimmer elected to start Stanton as his replacement. Everyone made fun of the situation and degraded him as a human being. Stanton even threw in a self-own by explaining “I’ve gone four innings before; even threw 70 pitches in one of them. That’s almost a starting pitch-count.” He managed to throw those four innings, while only allowing two hits and a walk and striking out three in a win against the Mariners.
I don’t want to say this game got him out of his funk, but he did pitch to a 3.51 ERA the rest of the way that year. Awfully convenient, if you ask me.
Scott Proctor, 2005
Famous for being the baseball player that Joe Torre melted down and reused for spare parts, Scott Proctor pitched 226 innings in parts of four seasons between 2004 and 2007 with the Yankees. In 2005, the right-hander had spent a good portion of the first half in the minors. He finally returned in June, but nothing seemed to be working right for him.
It wasn’t until an injury to Randy Johnson that Proctor finally got the chance to do some good for the team. Proctor had previously been a starter in the minors with the Dodgers but his start on August 11th would be his first in several years. In return for this one shining moment, he provided the Yankees with 5.0 innings where he only allowed three runs on three hits. It turned out to be one of his only good days that year as he pitched to a 7.41 ERA the rest of the way.
Brian Bruney, 2008
When Brian Bruney was in the Bronx, I remember hating him so much. Looking back on his time with the team, it probably wasn’t so bad, but maybe i’m just so tired right now that I’m actually feeling sentimentality for anything that happened in 2008. This was the year that he pitched to a 1.83 ERA, which was easily the best season of his career.
On April 9th, the Yankees were hit with some inclement weather just before game time. Instead of starting Ian Kennedy, Joe Girardi decided to get cute and pitch the 26-year-old Bruney to start the game. He managed to strike out four in two innings of work before giving the ball over to Billy Traber for one inning. Kyle Farnsworth went two innings, but Kyle Farnsworth was always Kyle Farnsworth, so he allowed two runs. Kennedy came into the game to pitch three innings and put the game out of reach against a young Zack Greinke.
Dellin Betances, 2011
As Weinberg reminded me in his original article, there was a time that Dellin was a promising, yet absolutely miserable starting pitcher. That year, the 23-year-old struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in the minors but still managed to walk 5.0 batters per nine. The Yankees had thought they fixed his control issues the year before, but he fell down to earth once more and the organization needed to force his hand.
As a result, Betances pitched two games at the major league level in 2011. The first was a forgettable relief appearance where he allowed two runs without giving up a single hit. He walked four batters in 0.2 innings before Girardi mercifully yanked him. On September 28th, the last day of the season, he threw two innings to start a game against the Rays that would eventually be known as Game 162. This was the game the Yankees needed to lose in order to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs. It was the best Yankees loss ever.
I have no idea why I did this. It seems like a considerably pointless journey through the most forgettable annals of Yankees history. Looking at active players is probably far more useful, but where’s the fun in that? This list would literally just be Dellin Betances. In the end, though, it’s not about the destination, man, it’s all about the friends we met along the way.