12:15 pm Aug. 28, 2012
As the Yankees have suffered injuries to starting pitchers and everyday players, and lost ground in the American League East, they may find help in the unlikely form of Pedro Feliciano.
Feliciano pitched with the Mets for many years before signing a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Yankees prior to the 2011 season.
But the Mets had famously abused Feliciano, with the lefty leading the major leagues in appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010, capping the three-year run with a high of 92 appearances. To get a sense of how crazy this was, he appeared in 266 games in three years; the next closest pitcher clocked 238 appearances, and no one has approached this total in the years since, nor had they in decades prior to Feliciano's run. Even Mike Marshall, who holds the single-season record for appearances with 106, couldn't top Feliciano's three-year total.
All of which made signing Feliciano to an expensive two-year deal an odd choice for the Yankees, and his breaking down in the spring of 2011, before throwing a pitch for his new team, entirely predictable.
Feliciano eventually had surgery to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder, just another former Mets pitcher with that injury (see also Johan Santana, Chris Young and Tim Byrdak), along with a rotator cuff in need of repair. He missed the entire 2011 season, and has missed most of the 2012 season, too.
But Feliciano has returned, and threw a scoreless inning on Monday night for Double-A Trenton. He's set to pitch again Tuesday night; if he passes the critical back-to-back test, he could be called up by the Yankees any time after that.
Here's why it matters that he does so now. It is August 28; postseason rosters are set by August 31. There's a decent amount of leeway teams have to add previously injured players, or use dubious injuries of those on the roster to replace them (see how Francisco Rodriguez got to be on the 2002 Angels' playoff roster, for example), but Feliciano really ought to be a Yankee by Friday to qualify.
The Yankees could use him. Not only is he prolific when he's healthy, and is extremely tough on lefties. Over the 2008-2010 seasons, his O.P.S. against lefties never cracked .600. And the two Yankee lefties in the bullpen, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada, have faltered somewhat of late, Logan more than Rapada. But neither one is as good as Feliciano was.
The Yankees even have a recent precedent for what Feliciano would do: Damaso Marte. The Yankees acquired Marte at the trade deadline in 2008 from the Pittsburgh Pirates, part of a six-player deal. But Marte wasn't healthy, and after struggling down the stretch in 2008 and at the start of 2009, missed most of the 2009 season. He returned, healthy, on August 21, and eventually became strong enough to dominate the Phillies in the World Series, pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out five.
Marte, like Feliciano, was an expensive lefty reliever who the Yankees didn't mind paying and keeping around, the kind of thing they won't be able to do as easily once they start limiting themselves to a $189 million salary ceiling in 2014.
But it isn't 2014 yet, and Pedro Feliciano may be healthy just in time for the Yankees' stretch run to the playoffs.