Three years ago today, Cleveland set its ALDS roster, choosing 22-year-old rookie lefthander Aaron Laffey for the 11th and final spot on its pitching staff. He hadn’t even been on the club’s 40-man roster until August 4, but having gone 13-4, 2.88 between AA and AAA forced his way into the picture. He went 4-2, 4.56 in nine late-season Indians starts, initially lasting two starts before an option back to AAA and then returning on August 25 for the rest of the season.
Laffey was one of two Cleveland pitchers (along with fellow rookie Tom Mastny) not to appear in the club’s three-games-to-one series win over the Yankees, as the Indians advanced to face Boston in the ALCS.
In Game 6 of the ALCS, with Mastny already having appeared in Games One, Two, and Five against Boston, Laffey made his first and only playoff appearance. The Red Sox (who had won Game 5 after Cleveland won three of the first four games) had jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Fausto Carmona in the first inning. Down 4-1 in the third, Carmona issued two walks and gave up a J.D. Drew RBI single to start the inning, and Rafael Perez was called on from the bullpen. He got Jason Varitek to fly out but proceeded to give up a single, double, walk, and single. With the score now 10-1, in came Laffey.
The young lefty got out of the inning with no further damage and proceeded to fire three scoreless frames, marred only by a Mike Lowell single in the sixth.
Laffey made just that one post-season appearance for the Indians, a mop-up effort by any definition. When he was put on the club’s playoff roster on October 4, 2007, it was at the expense of Cliff Lee, whose 5-8, 6.29 record had followed seasons of 14, 18, and 14 wins out of the Cleveland rotation – the first three full big league seasons of Lee’s career.
The next year, Lee went 22-3, 2.54, easily claiming the AL Cy Young by leading the league in wins, ERA, walks per nine, and home runs per nine.
And now this man is the apparent reason that Lee, who went 4-0, 1.56 in five post-season starts last year, is on the Rangers’ playoff roster, and slated to start Game One in Tampa Bay in two days:
Almost five years ago, on November 18, 2005, Tampa Bay outrighted outfielder Josh Hamilton, who had spent the previous three tumultuous seasons on the club’s restricted list, as part of its effort to clear roster space to add righthander James Shields, catcher Shawn Riggans, and first baseman Wes Bankston (Plano’s own) to the roster to make sure they weren’t exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
Hamilton came off the restricted list late in 2006, appearing in 15 games in July for the Hudson Valley Renegades (the next-to-last of which was a 6-4 loss to the State College Spikes, in that club’s first season of existence, having been moved from Augusta, New Jersey by new owner Chuck Greenberg).
But that 50-at-bat resurfacing didn’t convince the Devil Rays to do with Hamilton what they’d done with Shields, Riggans, and Bankston the winter before. Tampa Bay purchased the contracts of outfielder Elijah Dukes, righthander Mitch Talbot, and utility player Elliot Johnson in November 2006, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft, but not of Hamilton, a decision that led the Reds to pay the Cubs to draft the 25-year-old in a prearranged deal on December 7, and that led Cincinnati to move him to Texas a year and two weeks later for Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera, and that will have led to Hamilton, a second-time MVP candidate, stepping up to the plate in the first inning on Wednesday, before Lee ever takes the mound.
There’s not really a point to any of the above, other than an opportunity for me to work off some restless energy on an off-day between the games that count for 30 teams and the ones that only eight get to play.
I can say I remember what this was like 11 years ago, but I think I’d be lying.
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(c) Jamey Newberg