For Habyan, easier sledding

Off the beat

August 24, 1991

Until he allowed a run last night, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Habyan had not allowed one since July 15, a scoreless streak of 20 2/3 innings. The streak has helped him move into the No. 2 slot in the New York Yankees bullpen.

The secret to his success?

Part of it can be traced to a January day in 1989, when Habyan went sledding in Bel Air.

He skidded on an icy patch and went flying 10 feet. He landed on his right shoulder and suffered a third-degree separation.

"I was scared because no other pitchers ever had this," Habyan, 27, said. "I didn't know if I would be able to pitch again. I put the fear behind me because I wanted to pitch."

Habyan had surgery two days after the accident and found out a few months later that he had lost velocity on his fastball. So he made adjustments. Habyan developed a nasty sinking fastball, worked on pinpointing his control, quickened his delivery and became better at holding runners on base.

"I learned to pitch a little bit," he said. "Everything I had ignored from pitching coaches started to make sense."

New York traded outfielder Stan Jefferson for Habyan six months after the accident, and the rest is history.

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