Yankees bullpen proving starters' worst enemy

May 09, 1993|By New York Daily News

DETROIT -- It is surely a tantalizing thought for the New York Yankees. With a reliable bullpen of any kind, they could be enjoying a dizzying start like that of the Philadelphia Phillies', looking down from high atop the division.

Instead, they were left sorting through the wreckage of another bullpen disaster Friday night, wondering again if they can overcome these acts of sabotage over the long summer.

As John Habyan, the primary culprit in Friday night's 7-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers, said: "It's pretty evident the kind of trouble we're in. We're giving up too many home runs. It's ridiculous."

It's true. The bullpen, with its collective 7.65 ERA, has given up 17 home runs in 63 innings. The starters, by comparison, have given up 14 home runs in 188 innings.

Worse, the late-inning trio of Habyan, Steve Howe and Steve Farr has surrendered 11 home runs, most of them costly.

Indeed, the bullpen has been a key factor in no fewer than eight of the Yankees' 13 losses through Friday. In four games, relievers have flat-out blown leads -- three of three runs or more. In two other games, they've given up home runs that have broken late-inning ties and in two other games, relievers have come into games with the Yankees trailing by a run and have given up home runs that have blown games open.

The shame of it, for the Yankees, is that they've wasted the kind of starting pitching they'd have killed for in recent years. Jimmy Key has been the most obvious victim; he remains 3-0 despite a 1.34 ERA because Friday night the bullpen blew a four-run lead of Key's for the second time this season.

In each case, Key was in command when he was lifted, prompting the question of whether he should have stayed in the game. Friday night Key had thrown 101 pitches after seven innings, and was leading 6-2 when Buck Showalter decided not to push him.

Key endorsed the decision, saying he had begun to tire and leave the ball up in the strike zone. And when he was asked, in retrospect, if he wished he had stayed in and taken his chances, Key didn't hesitate to say no.

"This is a team game," he said. "We're not going to win this year without a bullpen. We've got capable people out there who just )) aren't doing the job right now. But if you burn out your starters in April, May, and June by pushing them, you're going to be hurting down the road."

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