The New York Yankees inked southpaw reliever, Pedro Feliciano, to a two-year, eight million dollar contract in January of 2011. At the time, Feliciano was coming off three straight seasons from 2008-2010 with the cross-town rival, New York Mets, in which he led all of Major League Baseball in appearances, with 86, 88 and 92 respectively. With so much wear and tear on the left arm of Feliciano, 266 games worth, the Mets felt comfortable letting Feliciano bolt for greener dollars in the Bronx.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman thought he was getting arguably the most reliable lefty specialist the game had to offer for the next two seasons, instead, Cashman is still waiting to see Feliciano throw his first pitch in pinstripes as that contract is set to expire in a little bit more than a month’s time.
When Feliciano went to spring training with the Yankees in 2011, he experienced a sore left shoulder and was shut down for much of the spring. Weeks later, that same shoulder that had been heavily taxed for three straight years was diagnosed with a torn capsule and rotator cuff that would require arthroscopic surgery which would effectively sideline Feliciano from action for the following two seasons.
Though Cashman was fully aware of the workload that Feliciano had been given by the Mets when he opted to sign him, he thought the risk was worth the money with respect to the thin free agent market of consistent relievers, specifically ones who are left handed.
“He was abused,” Cashman told the media in a 2011 press conference. “The concern is based on the MRI. The use pattern was abusive.”
Cashman added, “It’s a thin market when you’re out there looking for lefties, and he is one of the better ones out there. But you don’t typically run to sign up guys that have been used like that.”
After nearly two long years of tireless work and rehab, Feliciano is on the verge of returning to the big leagues just in time for a Yankees postseason run. With hopes of bolstering their already strong bullpen for the stretch run, the Bombers have summoned Feliciano on a rehab assignment this week in Trenton for their four game series with the New Britan Rock Cats. If all goes well, Feliciano could make his Yankee debut as soon as this weekend.
Feliciano got his first taste of action with the Thunder in Monday night’s disappointing 8-1 defeat after making four appearances in the Gulf Coast League and one with Single-A Tampa. Thunder Manager Tony Franklin gave Feliciano the ball to start the sixth inning against left handed hitter, James Beresford. In vintage Feliciano fashion, he struck him out on a sharp looking cutter that tailed in to the batter. After going to a full count on the next batter, righty, Aaron Hicks, Feliciano walked him on a slider that Hicks was able to check his swing on.
Not rattled at all by the umpires questionable ball four call, Feliciano came back to strike out lefty Chris Herrmann and induced a fly out from left handed hitting Oswaldo Arcia to end the inning. All in all, Feliciano threw 17 pitches in the inning, nine of them for strikes. The inning was a great barometer of how effective Feliciano can be down the stretch, seeing as though three of the four batters to face him were left handed hitters.
“I think I went out there and I did my job; I felt good. I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes,” said Feliciano. “I think I went out and worked the lefties real good. I walked the righty; I was trying to get him to swing and miss and that’s why I threw him three changeups. Then I threw him a good slider but he was able to hold his swing.”
“It kind of worked out that way,” said Franklin, speaking in regards to Feliciano pitching to three lefties in the inning. “Which is good because I think that’s what his role is going to be; to come in and get the lefty. We don’t generally do that here but tonight we had the opportunity to do it so it worked out great. We knew that we were going to pitch him an inning, where? We didn’t know. But, it worked out well. It doesn’t always work out that way; let’s see how it works out tomorrow.”
Franklin wasn’t too sure of what he would see from Feliciano nor was he very familiar with the pitches in his arsenal until talking with Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps just prior to the ballgame but he was left very encouraged by what he saw.
“I thought his pitches were pretty crisp,” admitted Franklin. “I really didn’t know exactly what he threw and I asked Phelpsy what he threw, he told me a little bit of a cutter that kind of tails down. It was there for him; what he wanted to do, he did it, so the crispness was there.”
Feliciano himself feels as though his stuff is where it needs to be to get hitters out. His main concern, however, is mastering his mechanics and getting into a comfort zone of completing his delivery consistently.
“I know that I feel good,” Feliciano said. “I just need to work on my mechanics. I’m trying to finish my pitches because sometimes I pull back and that’s why I threw a couple more balls than I wanted. Like on those changeups to the righty, I threw three changeups in a row, sometimes I pull back on them and that’s why sometimes I’m wild. So when I follow my mechanics and stay low, I’ve been throwing good.”
Feliciano added, “I feel like I’m pretty close; it’s just my mechanics that are off a little bit. I let it go and then realize what I’m doing when I throw a couple of bad pitches. I know what I’m doing badly when I’m doing it and I correct it. The biggest thing I need to fix mechanically is my head. I’ve got to keep my head down. Sometimes I pull it back and I open myself up and throw a ball.”
Feliciano is expected to pitch another inning in Trenton tonight, this time he will be placed in a situation in which he will enter the game during an inning rather than start it. Beyond that, Feliciano isn’t too certain of the organizations plan for him, but he is ready to contribute and serve as a vital piece to the Yankees World Series aspirations.
“I don’t really know what their plan is,” Feliciano said. “I know I’ve got another inning Tuesday and then a day off on Wednesday, a bullpen on Thursday and then we’ll see what they want in New York. It just feels good to get in my normal routine again, pitching every day. I think I’m good enough to get major league guys out; I’m hiding the ball good. I think I’m there and I’m just waiting for the opportunity.”