Despite sitting out the better part of two years after having reconstructive elbow surgery, Jon Lieber hasn’t forgotten where the strike zone is.
The veteran right-hander hasn’t issued a walk in any of his first three starts for the Yankees—a trend he’ll try to continue when New York resumes a three-game series with the Anaheim Angels.
Lieber, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002 and sat out all of last season while making a slow, steady recovery from the procedure, has won two of his first three starts for the Yankees. On Thursday, he allowed three runs over eight innings and struck out a season-high six in a 7-4 win over the Angels at Yankee Stadium.
Perhaps most impressive about Lieber’s return has been his outstanding control. He’s gone 21 straight innings without a walk, striking out 11 and allowing 19 hits in the process.
Lieber retired the first 11 batters he faced Thursday, gave up four straight hits and then got 11 more outs in a row.
“He could be huge for us,” manager Joe Torre said of Lieber, who has filled the fourth spot in the rotation since struggling right-hander Jose Contreras was sent to the minors.
The Yankees, winners of six straight series, opened this set with a 1-0, 11-inning loss on Tuesday. Adam Riggs, recalled from the minors earlier Monday, settled matters with a walk-off, bases-loaded single to right with one out.
The RBI hit ended a 24-inning scoreless streak for the Angels, who suffered a 4-0 loss to Baltimore on Sunday after failing to score in the final five innings of Saturday’s 7-4 victory over the Orioles.