COMMENTARY | In a slap to the face of New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, the New York Mets took to Twitter on Monday to announce they have signed former Yankees pitcher Pedro Feliciano to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.
Two years ago, Cashman said the Mets abused Feliciano by overusing the pitcher. Cashman, however, was stuck, having already signed Feliciano to a two-year, $8 million contract. He was proven right when it was discovered that Feliciano's shoulder needed rotator cuff surgery. The left-hander never threw a pitch in the regular season for the Yankees.
The Mets, meanwhile, earned a compensatory pick for the Yankees' signing, later inking prospect Michael Fulmer (7-6 with a 2.74 ERA at Class-A Savannah last season).
For some reason, Cashman ignored the warning signs of an overused pitcher. From 2008 through 2010, Feliciano, now 36, led National League pitchers in appearances each season. Over that three-year span, he appeared in a staggering 266 games, including 86 in 2008, 88 in 2009, and 92 in 2010. Over the four-year period dating back to 2007, Feliciano appeared in 344 games -- a major-league record.
Even during the Yankees' Joe Torre era, the most games any pitcher ever appeared in was 84 -- Paul Quantrill in 2004 -- and even then, Torre was accused of overworking his relievers and sending them into early retirement. Quantrill quickly faded into obscurity, and Torre looked for new arms to abuse. In 2006, he called on a young Scott Proctor for 83 games -- a decision that many Yankees fans pointed to as the impetus for Proctor's demise.
For the Yankees, Feliciano pitched in one minor league game in 2011 and bounced around the team's minor league affiliates in 2012, making stops with four different clubs and tossing a total of 10 1/3 innings. There was talk last September -- a year after his shoulder surgery -- that Feliciano could join the Yankees' expanded roster, but discussions were short-lasted. Feliciano sprained his ankle and was shut down for the remainder of the season.
The Puerto Rican hurler's overuse was no secret and even sparked a reply to Cashman's accusation of abuse by Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, who admitted that the Mets chose not to bring Feliciano back in 2011 because of the wear and tear on Feliciano's arm.
"That was part of the reason we decided not to re-sign him," Warthen said in April 2011, "because we knew we had used him 270-something times in the last three years."
Warthen will now have a chance to coach a very well-rested Feliciano while Cashman can do nothing but regret one of his worst signings.
When asked about Feliciano's deal with the Mets, Cashman told The New York Times, "He got hurt, and we never saw him. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes in this business."
Also nice in the baseball business? Having $8 million to flush down the proverbial toilet on an overused middle reliever.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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