When detractors complain that the New York Yankees can get any player they want, this is probably not what they had in mind.
But career minor leaguer Brian Gordon(notes) became the latest bit of good pitching fortune discovered by the Yankees this season anyway, joining the surprising revivals of Bartolo Colon(notes) and Freddy Garcia(notes). Five days after starting for the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley, the 32-year-old right-hander started for the Yankees on Thursday afternoon against the Texas Rangers.
And while his performance in the Yankees' 3-2 win may not have been completely outstanding, it was good enough to weave a great baseball story.
Gordon allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and three walks. He didn't earn a decision, as the game went into extra innings.
But the Yankees may not have gotten to that point if Gordon hadn't been solid in his first big league start after 15 long seasons in the minor leagues.
So how did Gordon go from pitching for Lehigh Valley to taking the mound at Yankee Stadium between starts? His contract included a clause that allowed him to opt out if the Phillies hadn't called him up to the majors by June 15. Despite a 5-0 record and 1.14 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings, Gordon wasn't getting a spot on the major league roster. In anticipation of that, the Phillies sent a memo to every team in the league, saying that Gordon was available.
With Colon going on the DL with a strained hamstring, Yankees GM Brian Cashman rounded up his scouting staff to look at film on Gordon, saw a pitcher with good command (only seven walks this year) who can change speeds, and decided he could help them. In Cashman's mind, maybe he also got to stick it back to the Phillies for snatching Cliff Lee(notes) away from the Yankees during the offseason. (OK, not really.)
"They got Cliff Lee, I got Brian Gordon," Cashman said. "I don't think they have anything to worry about."
Strangely enough, Gordon's previous major league experience consisted of only three relief appearances for the Texas Rangers when he was a September call-up. But almost all of Gordon's 15 years in professional baseball have been spent in the minors. Even more interesting is that he spent most of those seasons as a position player.
"After 10 years of trying it with no big-league time and bouncing around from organization to organization, it just didn't seem too promising," said Gordon, who was born in West Point. "I was starting a family. So I was like, I'm at peace with retirement. But I loved to pitch when I was a kid. Let's give it a shot."
Ironically, Gordon's pitching will allow him to hit in the major leagues, after all. He very likely earned himself another start with his performance on Thursday. That next appearance will be during interleague play when the Yankees play at Cincinnati, which means Gordon should get to bat. And he wasn't bad in the minors, smacking 119 career home runs to go with a .275/.321/.460 average.
Keep an eye on Gordon next Tuesday when he faces the Reds. Perhaps his story could get even better.