A little more than three weeks ago, Kevin Brown broke his left hand by punching a wall in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Now, he’ll have a chance to pitch his way back into New York’s postseason rotation.
Brown will make his return to the mound when the AL East-leading Yankees and second-place Boston Red Sox wrap up their three-game series at Fenway Park.
Brown has been out since Sept. 3, when he punched the clubhouse wall at Yankee Stadium in frustration during a 3-1 loss to Baltimore. He had surgery on the hand two days later and had the pins removed Thursday.
Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre watched Brown throw Friday and gave him the OK.
“What (Mel) saw in the bullpen, he was pretty impressed with,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “His arm is fine.”
Brown will pitch wearing a glove with extra padding. He practiced with it Saturday, taking grounders during pregame infield practice.
“I had no problem. It was kind of like the final hurdle,” said Brown. “I felt pretty confident that I’d be able to catch the ball and pitch. The good thing about this is I get a chance to get my feet wet before playoffs.”
Torre said he hadn’t decided whether Brown will be in the playoff rotation. New York, which has already clinched no worse than a wild-card spot, had a chance to clinch its seventh straight AL East title with a weekend sweep of Boston.
But after pulling out a 6-4 win Friday, the Yankees were beaten 12-5 by the Red Sox on Saturday as Boston scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
With the win, the Red Sox pulled within 4 1/2 games of the Yankees for first place, and kept New York’s magic number at four. Boston, which has finished second in the East to New York in each of the previous six years, leads the AL wild-card race by six games over Anaheim and Texas.
Brown had to watch last weekend’s series between the Yankees and Red Sox in the Bronx. He’s eager to re-establish himself as an important part of New York’s rotation.
“I don’t know how it’ll play out, but I’m in better condition. Right now, it’s about throwing,” said Brown, who should get two starts before the end of the regular season. “It is important. I’ve got to pitch pretty well for me to be a part of this team in the playoffs.”
Brown will have a tough assignment as he goes against Boston ace Curt Schilling, who has won seven straight decisions to emerge as one of the top candidates for AL Cy Young Award honors.
Coming off his 20th win, Schilling pitched eight brilliant innings of three-hit ball Tuesday against Baltimore, striking out a season-high 14. But Keith Foulke squandered a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth, costing Schilling his eighth straight victory, before Boston rallied for a 3-2 victory in the bottom of the ninth.
Schilling has been dominant at Fenway all season, going 11-1 with a 3.51 ERA in 17 starts.