There's an old adage in baseball that says you can never have too much pitching. And that goes a long way to explaining how Brian Gordon happened to find himself in the starting rotation for the Yankees.
06/30/2011 12:08 PM ET
Brian Gordon is living his dream
Right-hander is thankful for opportunity Yanks gave him
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
First, Andy Pettitte retired after a distinguished career in pinstripes. Then Cliff Lee turned down more money from the Yankees to sign with the Phillies. Free-agent signees Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano wound up on the disabled list. Then Phil Hughes joined them with a dead arm. Joba Chamberlain went down for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Then Bartolo Colon, one of general manager Brian Cashman's reclamation projects, pulled a hamstring to land on the DL.
That brought the Yankees to Gordon, a journeyman Minor Leaguer, who spent the first 10 years of his career as an outfielder before giving pitching a shot. He had played for 14 different Minor League teams in six different organizations when Cashman found the right-hander toiling for the Phillies' Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Gordon had an interesting resume that included a 5-0 record and a 1.14 ERA as well as an opt-out clause in his contract in case some Major League team came calling. When Cashman indicated interest, he didn't have to ask twice.
The next thing the 32-year-old knew, he was starting for New York against the American League champion Rangers.
"The butterflies were at full charge," Gordon said.
His solution was to tug his cap down, focus on his catcher and just pitch.
He threw an effective 5 1/3 innings in a game the Yankees won in 12 innings. When he left the game, the crowd at Yankees Stadium gave him a standing ovation. It was enough to send a chill down his spine.
"That was very special," he said. "I've never been part of something like that. All this is a dream ... a lifelong dream."
Gordon was good enough to earn a second start against Cincinnati, and although he was not quite as good in that one, allowing three home runs in four innings, he still appreciated the opportunity.
"This is the greatest stage in baseball and I'm one of five guys [starting], " he said. And that made it very special for a career Minor Leaguer whose only previous big league experience was a three-game cameo in the bullpen with Texas in 2008.
His personal travelogue includes stops all over America. He went 43-3 pitching for his high school team but was drafted as an outfielder by Arizona. He started at South Bend, Ind., and then played in four different Minor League cities over the next four years in the Diamondbacks organization. Then he drifted to the Angels, Astros, Rangers and Phillies -- always in a different town, before Cashman found him.
It was in 2007, with Texas' Triple-A Round Rock team that Gordon decided to try pitching. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan owned the team and offered some help. The outfielder became a pitcher and now he is a Major Leaguer.
He knows this may be a short-term adventure. Hughes is throwing in a rehabilitation assignment. Colon is throwing again. When they return, it could mean a ticket to the bullpen for Gordon. He would be fine with that. "Hopefully, I can stick around for a little while and help the Yankees," he said. "It sounds weird saying that."
Gordon arrived in New York equipped with a fastball that hits 91 miles per hour, not exceptional but good enough accompanied by a big breaking curve and a cutter he added to his arsenal this season. It earned him a ticket to the Major Leagues and no matter how long it lasts, Gordon will savor the experience. That's because Yankee Stadium is a long way from Lehigh Valley.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.