The veteran right-hander will finally get his chance when the defending American League champions continue a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium.
Lieber was a 20-game winner with the Chicago Cubs in 2001, and then had his 2002 campaign cut short by a severe elbow injury, which led to “Tommy John” surgery on his right arm. Signed to a two-year deal by the Yankees prior to the 2003 campaign, Lieber sat out all of last season while recovering from the procedure, but was ready and raring to start this season as part of New York’s five-man rotation.
However, a groin injury during spring training pushed back his Yankees debut yet again, forcing Lieber to wait until this weekend to make his first start in pinstripes.
“It’s been a long haul,” Lieber said. “I was very frustrated with what happened in spring training, but now I’m here. I’m excited to get it going again.”
Lieber made three rehab starts during extended spring training in Tampa, Fla., raising his pitch count with each outing. He pitched seven scoreless innings Sunday, allowing just two hits while throwing 70 pitches.
The Yankees are expected to keep Lieber on a 100-pitch count in his debut.
“I know my arm is 100 percent. That won’t be in the back of my head,” said Lieber. “It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown that many pitches in a ballgame. It may take three or four starts before I feel like I’m back to normal.”
Lieber’s last big league appearance came on Aug. 1, 2002, when he allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings to help the Cubs to an 8-7 win over San Diego.
The Yankees extended their season-high winning streak to four games with Friday’s 5-2 win as Javier Vazquez pitched eight strong innings and Mariano Rivera recorded his eighth save in as many chances.
With the win, New York completed its major league record 13th consecutive winning April, breaking the mark previously held by the 1941-52 Yankees.
The struggling Royals finished the month 7-14, a far cry from their surprising 17-4 start after 21 games last year.
Ken Harvey continued his hot hitting with a homer for Kansas City, which has lost four of five. Harvey, batting a team-best .403, is hitting .417 (15-for-36) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games.