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Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor: Two No-Name Yankees Pitchers to Watch in 2006

Elvis Elvis

While Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor are not household names like Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera are on the Yankees pitching staff, Sturtze and Proctor indeed could be playing key roles in the Yankees relief-pitching fortunes this season.Sturtze joined the Yankees in 2004, and although his ERA was a bloated 5.47 that season, he had several outstanding efforts in the most unappealing of all jobs on a pitching staff, long/middle relief, in games in which he entered with the Yankees far behind after the starter had failed, held the other team in check, and whose good work paid off when the Yankees rallied to win some of these games.

The ironic truth is, however, that no one ever stays in the long/middle relief role, if successful, because being successful necessitates a promotion up the bullpen hierarchy.

So Sturtze may have been deprived of his proper niche because he was too successful at a thankless job. Sturtze always has had good stuff, but he has often lacked control. Last year he had a good first half and his control was excellent, as he walked only 1.5 hitters per nine innings before the All-Star Break, but after the Break he walked 5.8 hitters per nine innings. This decline was attributed mostly to a tired shoulder, and certainly his 64 games pitched in 2005 were by far his most game appearances in his major-league career.

This spring Manager Joe Torre was talking about narrowing roles, saving Mariano Rivera for the 9th inning, using Kyle Farnsworth in the 8th inning, and allowing Sturtze to work the 7th inning.

The 7th-inning assignment would be an important role for Sturtze, at least until Octavio Dotel is ready to join the team in June. But this spring, although Sturtze’s shoulder has reportedly rebounded, his spring-training record was not very good. In 8.2 innings, he allowed 15 hits and 10 runs. He will need to pitch a lot better than that to maintain a valued role in the bullpen, or he will start making his way down the bullpen hierarchy.

Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor: Two No Name Yankees Pitchers to Watch in 2006

Scott Proctor, Hard Thrower But Straight Thrower

Proctor is a pitcher who has been difficult to figure out. He throws very hard, but he also throws very straight. In 55 games with the Yankees over the past two years, his ERA has been a highly disappointing 5.81. Last year, in fact, left-handed hitters batted .315 against Proctor and hit a home run every six at bats.

I did not even review Proctor as being in the Yankees plans this spring because it was my understanding that Proctor was being sent to the minors and converted into a starting pitcher.

But then Proctor goes and has a great spring, pitching to a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings, and Joe Torre has decided to keep Proctor in the bullpen with the big club when the season opens in Oakland.

The question is this: Has Proctor found the secret to harnessing his considerable talent, or has his great spring been a fluke?

This year the Yankees have to get something out of Sturtze, and perhaps Proctor, if the new-look bullpen is to be successful. Having Rivera as the closer is a great weapon, but in the past few years the rest of the guys in the bullpen whose names weren’t Rivera haven’t been very good. Sturtze and Proctor have done their parts in contributing to this trend. Now, in 2006, they can help turn it around.