It was on my birthday this year, June 14th, that I settled down to watch a Yankee game. It was a Friday night, and the Yanks were on a west coast road trip. The surprising Bronx Bombers had been in second place when that trip had started, just a game and a half behind the even more surprising Red Sox. Their first stop had been in Seattle, where they took three out of four from the hapless Mariners. But then they went to Oakland and dropped three straight to the A’s. It was the results of that series that brought my doubts about the patched together Yankee lineup back to the surface. Since their night games started late on the east coast whenever the Yanks played alongside the Pacific, I had not watched any of the contests that had been played on that trip thus far. Even though I had celebrated my birthday with a couple of bourbons, I was determined to stay awake long enough see if that night’s starting pitcher, Andy Pettitte was back in the smooth-pitching groove he had been in at the beginning of the year.
Remember, Pettitte had started the 2013 season with three straight wins and an ERA of 2.01. Then his back began stiffening up on him and the Yankee offense went into a slump and Andy lost three of his next four decisions before finally going on the DL in the middle of May. That night he would be making his second start since returning from the DL. He had won the third game of the Mariners’ series and I was anxious to see if he really was back in the groove. I had my doubts after watching him give up three hits and a run in the opening inning but then he got the next six hitters out and David Adams two run single in the top of the fourth gave New York its first and only lead. The Halos evened the score in the bottom half of the inning, took the lead in the sixth and then scored their fourth and final run off Pettitte in the seventh.
That was it for the Yankees’ veteran left-hander. He had struggled the whole game giving up 11 hits but he had also battled his way through plenty of jams. He left the game with his team down by two. That’s when it became very clear to me just how short the Yankees’ minor league pitching talent was. I remember that when whichever Yankee announcer announced “Chris Bootcheck will be making his Yankee debut to start the eighth inning” my initial reaction was “Chris who check?”
This very tall right hander, wearing uniform number 34 then appears on my big screen throwing warm-up pitches. At first, I jogged my memory, trying to remember if this was one of those “three B’s” Brian Cashman had been so crazy about a few years earlier but then one of the guys in the Yankee booth said he was 34 years old and was making a homecoming of sorts. He had been a number 1 pick of the Angels in the 2000 draft and had pitched for them as a reliever from 2005 through 2008.
The Yankees had signed Bootcheck during the 2013 spring training season and sent him to Scranton/Wilkes Barre, where he had been turned back into a starter and had become the RailRiders’s best pitcher. In a strange move, indicative of just how stretched the Yankee pitching staff had become, New York had sent Adam Warren to Scranton after he had pitched six scoreless innings of relief against the A’s on that same road trip. They knew Warren wouldn’t be able to pitch again for a while so they sent him down and brought Bootcheck up.
I watched Bootcheck walk the first Angel he faced in the bottom of the eighth and since by then it had to be well past midnight and no longer my birthday, I turned off the TV and went to bad a year older and wiser enough to know that it would take a miracle for this 2013 Yankee team to reach the postseason if they had to depend on their pitching to get them there. No disrespect to Bootcheck but if he was the best pitcher they had on their top farm club, I knew my favorite team did not have the pitching talent it would need to reach the 2013 postseason.
Bootcheck is a native of LaPorte, Indiana, who was born on this date in 1978. He finished the 2013 season in Scranton, going 10-7 with a 3.69 ERA. He was one of 24 different Yankee pitchers to appear in a game for New York during the 2013 regular season. He shares a birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.
|LAA (5 yrs)||3||7||.300||6.04||77||3||29||0||0||1||132.2||162||93||89||18||55||92||1.636|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||0||11.05||13||0||3||0||0||0||14.2||16||18||18||1||9||13||1.705|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||0||1||0||0||0||1.0||2||1||1||0||2||1||4.000|