By Steve Silverman
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Derek Lowe pitched four scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers on Monday in a performance that seemed to have little to do with reality.
When last seen, Lowe had been dumped on the scrap heap by the Cleveland Indians. After getting off to an excellent start, Lowe appeared to be completely out of gas after June 1.
He had become a batting-practice pitcher, going 1-7 and having an earned run average of nearly 9.00. He had fallen completely into the abyss.
Lowe had been a solid Major League pitcher for the Red Sox and Dodgers, but there was no reason to think he was anything but a warm body when Brian Cashman signed him.
However, he had an old-school, four-inning performance to close the game in the Yankees’ 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers.
There’s no reason to be sold on Lowe yet, because he was so bad that he appeared to turn the most ordinary of hitters into ferocious threats every time he stepped on the mound. However, he deserves another shot, and there is at least hope that he can turn things around.
The biggest reason to feel good about Lowe is catcher Russell Martin’s assessment. Martin had caught Lowe when the two were teammates with the Dodgers, and he said that Lowe still had his “good stuff” against the Rangers and that he was impressed by all the swings and misses Lowe got from Rangers hitters.
Lowe gave up two hits and did not walk a batter in his four innings on the mound. Lowe said he was more deceptive in his debut with the Yankees than he had been with the Indians. While Martin said he was throwing hard, Lowe knows that he’s usually not going to have high strikeout totals. He needs to hide the ball from batters and outthink them.
That’s what he did against the AL West-leading Rangers, and that’s what he’s going to have to do if he is going to become an asset for the Yankees.
Lowe has a lot to prove to himself.
“I had to get back to hiding the ball a little better,” Lowe said. “I’m not going to do jumping jacks because you pitch one good game, because you’re in this for the long haul.”
Having an experienced pitcher who has been through the pressure cooker and succeeded in the past could be a real find for Joe Girardi. If Lowe can pick up from where he left off, his versatility could prove to be invaluable down the stretch and into the postseason. He could become the long man, take up valuable innings in the middle of the game and become one of those bullpen parts that is so valuable to nearly every championship team.
Considering all the pitching woes that the Yankees have had this season, Lowe’s first performance brought some much-needed good news.
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Credit the Yankees for taking a moment of silence to honor Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, who died yesterday at the age of 90. It’s one thing to honor your own, but when you take the time to honor one of the nicest individuals from your biggest rival it’s a classy move.
“He was always so nice to me throughout the years. Every time I’d see him, he would come over and say, ‘I hope you get four hits today — and the guy behind you hits into four double plays.’ I’ve always enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to him,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.
One of the first experiences I had as a reporter involved Pesky. I was covering the Red Sox for a Boston radio station in 1979 and I was hanging around the batting cage as slugger Jim Rice was taking his cuts.
Rice lined a shot off the top bar of the cage that protected batting practice pitcher Walt Hriniak. The ball arched back over the batting cage and I retreated like a center fielder, extending my left arm and catching it gracefully.
Pesky observed the maneuver and said, “Sign that boy up.”
He was smiling and joking, but it made me feel great.
That’s the kind of effect that Pesky had on most people, and I was glad to have the chance to meet him and talk to him.
Yankees fans, could Derek Lowe be a valuable asset for the pitching staff down the stretch? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…