January 27 – Happy Birthday Mike Zagurski

Mike_ZagurskiIt really was amazing that despite a rash of injuries and bad personnel moves by the team’s front office, the Yankees still had a shot at postseason play going into the second week of September. But when they dropped the first two games of their final series with the Red Sox, I knew there’d be no fall ball for my favorite team in 2013.

On the evening of Sunday, September 15th, I decided to turn on the final game of that three-game set for one reason and one reason only. Ivan Nova was scheduled to pitch and I wanted to see if he was back in his groove. Even though he had won his previous four decisions, he had pitched poorly in his last two outings, getting roughed up by the Rays and the Red Sox. With Pettitte retiring and Hughes imploding, I figured Nova was an essential member of New York’s 2014 rotation so I wanted to see if he could hold the soon-to-be World Champion Red Sox in check that night. He didn’t. When Boston knocked him out in the fifth inning the Yankees were behind 5-1.

By the time the seventh inning rolled around I was probably already snoring away and dreaming that the Yankees would not only sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran the following offseason, but also snare Masahiro Tanaka. Whatever the reason, I ended up missing the Yankee debut of today’s Pinstripe Biirthday Celebrant. It turned out to also be his farewell performance as a Bronx Bomber. When he took the mound in Fenway that evening, he became the 23rd different pitcher to do so for New York during the disappointing 2013 regular season.

Like Joba Chamberlain, the guy he relieved in that night’s game, Zagurski is a native of Nebraska. A 12th round draft choice of the Phillies in 2005, he had made his big league debut two years later, appearing in 25 games out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 2007 and struggling mightily with his control. The portly southpaw then spent most of the next four seasons in the minors, eventually getting traded to the Diamondbacks. He made Arizona’s big league staff in 2012, appeared in 45 games that season and again struggled with his control.

He was released that November and picked up by Pittsburgh that December. The Yankees originally signed him in June of 2013, when the Pirates let him go. New York then released him two months later. He was with Oakland for two short weeks, got dropped and re-signed with the Yankees. Cashman picked him up again only because Boone Logan’s sore pitching elbow wasn’t responding to treatment and Joe Girardi needed a  left-arm in the pen to replace it. Unfortunately, Zagurski failed the only chance the Yankee skipper gave him to fill that void.

The first hitter he faced against Boston that night was Stephen Drew, who drilled a long fly ball out to deep right. Red Sox phee-nom Xander Bogaerts then singled sharply. Another Red Sox phee-nom, Jackie Bradley became the last hitter the Big Zag would ever face while wearing a Yankee uniform. He ended up hitting the young outfielder with a pitch. Cashman released him right after the season ended and Zagurski’s odyssey continued when he was signed the following month by the Indians.

Zagurski became the ninth member of the all-time Yankee roster with a last name that began with the letter “Z.” He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee who won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Award, this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this one too.

2013 NYY 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
5 Yrs 1 0 1.000 7.05 89 0 23 0 0 0 75.1 85 60 59 11 46 75 1.739
PHI (3 yrs) 1 0 1.000 6.82 37 0 8 0 0 0 31.2 37 24 24 5 19 36 1.768
ARI (1 yr) 0 0 5.54 45 0 13 0 0 0 37.1 37 24 23 5 19 34 1.500
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 15.00 6 0 2 0 0 0 6.0 10 10 10 1 8 5 3.000
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.

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