David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
As David Price prepared to make his Tigers debut Tuesday night, CC Sabathia sat at his locker, with two bandages covering the surgical incisions on his right knee. Sabathia first talked about his long path back from the operation, but later recalled what it was like to be Price -- or in that same situation.
On July 7, 2008, the Indians traded the homegrown Sabathia to the Brewers, who were seeking a legitimate stopper -- and got the best one available. Sabathia joined a rotation of Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Manny Parra, then went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA after switching uniforms. The Tigers should be so lucky with Price.
"The day I got to Milwaukee, I felt like I had been there forever," Sabathia said. "Everyone was great. I'm sure if Price has a similar experience over there, he'll be able to go out and pitch well."
The Yankees would have preferred Price to be starting for them rather than the Tigers, who added a third Cy Young winner to their collection with the July 31 deadline deal. It's not like Brian Cashman didn't try.
Not only did Cashman call his Rays counterpart, Andrew Friedman, about trading for Price, he also dialed up the Red Sox's Ben Cherington to discuss Jon Lester and John Lackey. Those conversations didn't get very far.
Both GMs told Cashman they had been given approval by ownership to trade their elite pitchers anywhere in the majors -- except to the Yankees.
Cashman expected as much from the Red Sox. Who do you think came up with the term "Evil Empire" anyway? He held out a sliver of hope on Price, but Friedman soon gave him the thumbs-down. So the Yankees, the contender that most wanted an ace-type starter, got shut out while the two teams that least needed one -- the Tigers and A's -- wound up with Price and Lester, respectively.
Price allowed home runs to Brian McCann and Martin Prado, but still got the Tigers through 82/3 innings with the score tied at 3. He struck out 10 and did not surrender a walk.
"He really looked exactly like he did in Tampa, except with a Tigers uniform on," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He was calm, he was methodical and he got outs."
The Red Sox did throw Cashman a bone in Stephen Drew, but that did nothing to help him cobble together a playoff-caliber rotation for the next two months. Unless Cashman can work some waiver-wire magic in the coming weeks, he's left with two options. Wait for the eventual return of Michael Pineda, who could be ready in another 7-10 days, and pray that Masahiro Tanaka is able to pitch with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament come September.
We get the sense that Pineda, despite his shoulder issues and pine-tar addiction, will actually be a contributing member of the rotation again. Tanaka, however, seems iffy -- even after two pain-free days of playing catch.
Cashman has seen too much this season to count on either one.
The Yankees need another starter for Friday to replace David Phelps, who was placed on the DL with elbow tendinitis, and Cashman is always looking for reinforcements. Before last night's game, the Yankees basically gave lefty reliever Matt Thornton to the Nationals on a waiver claim, saving them roughly $4 million through next season and clearing room for the next round of young arms.
"I'm open to anything that makes us better," Cashman said. "I'm not shut down for business, whether it's buying or reshuffling the deck. We've been mixing and matching all year. That's not going to stop."
Cashman's "reshuffled" Yankees, featuring the July import Brendan McCarthy, beat last year's Cy winner Max Scherzer in Monday's 2-1 victory over the Tigers. That left one down, but two Cys to go in Price and then Justin Verlander tonight.The trade for Price was supposed to make the Tigers nearly unbeatable until at least the ALCS, where they would be matched up with an A's rotation stacked with elite arms. Now that Price has cleared his first hurdle, he'll start feeling more at home in Detroit.
"I'm happy it's over," Price said, "and I'm happy we won. I feel a lot better about everything right now."