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This Day in Yankees History: Three veterans begin 2011 comebacks

Eric Chávez, Bartolo Colón, and Freddy García receive spring training invitations; 17-time World Series champion Frankie Crosetti passes away

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the offseason well underway, the Pinstripe Alley team is continuing this revived program. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (February 11th)

19 Years Ago

The Yankees mourn the loss of former shortstop and longtime third base coach Frankie Crosetti, who had been a part of 17 World Series championship teams during his time as a player and as a coach: 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962. He was 91 years old.

15 Years Ago

The Yankees avoid arbitration with starting pitcher Shawn Chacón, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.6 million. He had joined the Yankees the previous season, acquired in a trade from the Colorado Rockies in July. Despite many fans being skeptical that he would be a difference-maker, Chacón was fantastic that season, starting his career in pinstripes metaphorically on the right foot, but physically on the wrong one: in a game that yours truly was in attendance for, he gave up one run on four hits in six innings, but is remembered less for his performance and more for the fact that he slipped on the pitcher’s mound and fell on his face while warming up before the sixth inning.

His strong season — he finished with a 7-3 record, 2.85 ERA, and 149 ERA+ — inspired confidence that he could be an anchor for years. Unfortunately, his 4.53 FIP and 1.33 K/BB in 2005 suggested that he had been a beneficiary of some good luck, and over the course of the 2006 season, he eventually played himself not only out of the rotation, but off the team (he would be traded at the deadline to the Pittsburgh Pirates). Chien-Ming Wang instead would be the breakout ace that the team desperately needed in 2006... although that’s a baseball tragedy for another day.

10 Years Ago

The Yankees announce the players to whom they had extended non-roster spring training invitations. These include former top prospects Jesús Montero and Manny Bañuelos, future swingmen/bullpen arms David Phelps and Adam Warren, and future backup catchers Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. More significantly for the 2011 Yankees, however, were the trio of veterans attempting to make a comeback: Eric Chávez, Bartolo Colón, and Freddy García.

Chávez, a long-time member of the Oakland Athletics, signed a minor league deal after having his club option for 2011 declined by the A’s. After making the cut, he played two years with the Yankees, posting a .274/.338/.445 slashline (109 OPS+) in 171 games. With starting third baseman Alex Rodriguez missing 103 games in that period, Chávez became an integral part of the lineup, filling in at the hot corner and cycling through the designed hitter spot when A-Rod was healthy.

A former Cy Young Award winner, Colón had not pitched in the majors during the 2010 season, and entering his age-38 season, many expected that he was at the end of his rope. To everyone’s surprise, he made the team out of spring training, and was later added to the starting rotation when Phil Hughes was injured. He more than made the most of that opportunity, and would ultimately make 26 starts for the Yankees, posting a 4.00 ERA (3.83 FIP). The 2011 season started a career renaissance for Colón, who ultimately pitched until 2018 — his age-45 season. Not to mention that he’s still playing, albeit not at the Major League level: had the Mexican League played in 2020, he would have been on the Acereros de Monclova, and he is still holding out hope for a Major League job in 2021!

Like Chávez, García spent two years with the Yankees. After making the rotation out of spring training in 2011, “Sweaty Freddy” became one of the team’s more reliable starters, posting a 3.62 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 25 starts. The following season, however, he was disastrous as a starter (5.93 ERA, 1.482 WHIP in 17 starts), although a reliable option in relief (2.42 ERA, 0.94 WHIP in 13 appearances). Unfortunately, injuries to Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, and Andy Pettitte kept him in the rotation for much more of the season than the Yankees probably liked.

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Happy 32nd birthday to former Yankees pitcher César Cabral! Born on this day in Sabana Grande de Palenque, Dominican Republic, Cabral was originally signed as an international amateur by the Boston Red Sox. After three years in the Red Sox farm system, he began to bounce around the league before playing a single inning at the Major League level: being selected by the Rays in the 2010 Rule V Draft, claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays in March 2011, waived and claimed again by the Rays two days later, returned to Boston when he failed to make the team after spring training, claimed by the Kansas City Royals the during the 2011 Rule V Draft, then immediately sold to the Yankees. Ultimately, a stress fracture that required surgery kept him out the entire 2012 season, allowing him to take up permanent residence in the Yankees farm system.

After eight appearances as a lefty specialist when rosters expanded in 2013, in which he gave up three hits and one run in 3.2 innings, Cabral was the first man up when David Robertson went down with a groin strain early in the season. His performance, however, was nothing short of a disaster, capped off by an appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 18, 2014, in which he gave up three runs on three hits — and three hit batters! — without recording an out. He was ejected by home plate umpire Joe West, probably for the safety of the players, a decision that Joe Girardi disagreed with at the time, and one that I fully supported.

Not surprisingly, he was designated for assignment less than an hour later, replaced on the roster by Matt Daley.

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We thank Baseball Reference, SABR, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.