David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
No member of the Yankees' bullpen would admit to being tired this week. Not now, not with an all-important division title in reach, and only eight games left in the regular season.
That includes Boone Logan, despite his seventh-inning meltdown in Tuesday night's 5-4 loss to the Twins. Making his 77th appearance, the most in the American League, Logan certainly looked exhausted in blowing a 3-1 lead after entering the game with the bases loaded.
When asked if fatigue was a factor, Logan replied, "No, I don't think so. I don't have any answers. I just had a bad night."
The Yankees can't afford any more like Tuesday, when Logan disintegrated from his opening pitch, a wild one that allowed the first run to score. Denard Span put the Twins ahead with a two-run double and Joe Mauer added an RBI single, which Minnesota ultimately needed.
Asked again about his physical state, Logan responded, "I just wasn't sharp. I was trying to make do with what I had and I just didn't have the same stuff tonight."
That's Logan's explanation anyway. As for what relievers really feel like this time of year, here's Jeff Nelson to give a more accurate description of what it was like to get up two, three or four times a night after already logging 70-plus appearances.
Nelson owns four World Series rings from his six years of predominantly set-up duty with the Yankees, so he knows something about the type of pressure David Robertson is under these days -- or the effect of Logan's workload.
Despite the adrenaline-fueled rush, there always was a toll to be paid, and Nelson recalled what it was like having a nervous Joe Torre repeatedly call for him.
"The toughest part is getting up and down," Nelson said Tuesday at Target Field. "When you get up and get ready, and you do it three times, that's when you start dreading the phone ringing. Then you're feeling a little fried.
"At first, you're fresh. And even the second time, OK, you're ready to go. But the third one, especially this time of year, when you're needed every day, your arm starts barking a little bit."
Even Girardi, who is getting more anxious with his bullpen as the Yankees struggle to shake the Orioles, didn't rule out fatigue as a factor with Logan. "It could be," he said. "I asked him how he felt and told me he felt good today."
Heading into Tuesday night's game, the Yankees' 4181/3 relief innings were the second fewest in baseball. But they also had four relievers among the top 30 in appearances. After Logan there was Clay Rapada, who was tied for 11th with 68. Rounding out the Yankees' contingent was Rafael Soriano (18th, 66) and Robertson (30th, 61).
Robertson, predictably, said Tuesday afternoon that he's fine, despite a 5.40 ERA in his last 14 appearances. Girardi did get Robertson up again Tuesday -- even with a 5-3 deficit -- but he never came in. With Soriano reserved for save situations, Girardi has been leaning on Robertson as his safety net, and the needle better not be on empty for him, too.
"It seems like this year I've had a lot of rough outings and battled through a lot of them," Robertson said. "But that's just the way the game's been going for me this year. I was very fortunate last year to escape a lot of big innings -- to get punchouts with the bases loaded and stuff like that -- but this year is not the same."
There's one way to change all of that. And it starts with the next time the phone rings.