Jon Lieber’s debut with the New York Yankees was a rousing success. But after a 1 1/2 -year layoff, the veteran right-hander knows he has a long way to go if he wants to re-establish himself as a consistent, and healthy, big league pitcher.
Lieber hopes to build on his first win in pinstripes when the Yankees open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Lieber, out since August 2002 after undergoing shoulder surgery, missed the start of the season with a nagging groin injury. But he finally made his first career Yankee Stadium start Saturday, and came through it with flying colors.
The 34-year-old right-hander surrendered three runs and five hits over seven solid innings as the Yankees cruised to a 12-4 win over Kansas City.
A 20-game winner with the Chicago Cubs in 2001, Lieber retired 15 of 16 batters during one brilliant stretch and got 13 ground-ball outs with his hard sinker.
“I feel like I got a second chance right now and I just want to make the most of it. It’s just been a long road. I just want to give back as much as I can,” Lieber said.
“It’s an honor just to be a part of this team.”
With Cuban right-hander Jose Contreras struggling mightily, Lieber will play an even more important role in the New York rotation. Contreras was sent down to Class A Tampa earlier in the week, meaning Lieber will eventually move into the fourth slot behind Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez was unable to extend the Yankees’ season-high eight-game winning streak Wednesday, squandering an early four-run lead in a 7-4 loss in Oakland.
New York was held to six hits after pounding out 28 in the previous two games.
The Mariners have won three of four, including Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Minnesota. Freddy Garcia pitched seven strong innings for his first win as Seattle recorded its eight come-from-behind win of the young season.