Jon Lieber may have already exceeded the expecations the New York Yankees had for him when he returned from a two-year absence earlier this month. He’ll try to resume his successful comeback when the red-hot Yankees shoot for a three-game series of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
Lieber, out since 2002 while recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, was originally expected to be part of the Yankees’ rotation out of spring training. However, the veteran right-hander was set back by a groin injury, and didn’t take the mound for New York until May 1.
He has been one of the Yankees’ most consistent hurlers since, going 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in five starts, and winning each of his last three outings.
On Tuesday, Lieber limited Baltimore to two runs and four hits over seven innings as the Yankees pounded the Orioles 11-3. Lieber struck out two and walked one, going at least seven innings for the fourth time since his return.
“He’s basic,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Lieber. “He’s just got a fastball, slider and changeup, he’s not complicated to catch, and he doesn’t waste much time. He does what he does, works the plate more than he does the hitter.”
Lieber’s outing was especially inspiring for the Yankees because he was able to return to the mound after a 1-hour, 18-minute rain delay, and pitch effectively.
“Going through a situation like that, who knows if I’d have come back out if it were later in the game?” said Lieber. “Since it was early, I hadn’t thrown too many pitches and I felt fine, I wanted to give it a try.”
Kevin Brown returned from an excused two-day absence from the team to pitch 7 2-3 brilliant innings as the Yankees beat the Devil Rays 5-3 on Saturday. Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Enrique Wilson homered for the defending AL champions, who climbed a season-high 12 games above .500 with their sixth straight win on a 12-game road trip that ends Sunday.
New York, which is 8-3 on the trip, also moved a half-game ahead of Boston for first place in the AL East.
Travis Hall homered for Tampa Bay, which had won six of seven—its best stretch of the season—prior to this series.