Luis Cessa is a Baby Bomber of a different sort. He doesn’t hit home runs, he gives them up.
The long ball did not affect him when the Yankees averaged eight runs in his four winning decisions, but that abruptly ended Sunday in a 4-2 loss to the Rays.
Cessa, a 24-year-old righthander making his fifth start, gave up three home runs, increasing his total to 13 in 47 2⁄3 innings. Corey Dickerson hit a two-run shot in the second and Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller went deep in the sixth, Cessa’s last inning. Of the 25 runs scored off Cessa, 20 have come on home runs.
Joe Girardi had praised Cessa (4-1, 4.34 ERA) before the game, saying: “He brings aggressiveness. He’s not afraid to pitch inside and pitch inside effectively to move people’s feet to make them uncomfortable. His breaking ball has improved . . . He’s been pretty good about six pretty good innings and giving us a chance to win.’’
Afterward, the manager was asked why Cessa has struggled to keep the ball in the park.
“Mistakes that he makes,’’ Girardi answered. “Two [Dickerson and Forsythe] were fastballs up. One was a slider. I think it was cut somewhat down and in to Miller. Between those pitches, he had pitched pretty well. But he made some mistakes and they got hit.’’
Speaking of Cessa’s home run total, Girardi said: “It’s a lot. It’s something that we need to work on . . . But overall, I think he’s made a ton of progress this year. And he’ll get better.’’
When questioned about his performance, Cessa said through a translator: “Overall, I would say it was a good start. You know, a couple of pitches here and there that make a difference in a game.’’
He felt the pitch to Dickerson was a good one. “Very surprised on that pitch because that’s where we wanted to pitch,’’ he said. “That’s where we wanted to go, high on that pitch. He put a good swing on the ball and, you know, hit it out.’’
Cessa did not deny his propensity to give up homers, saying: “Obviously, you know when you play at this level, you can’t miss your spots because when you do, they usually hit them out. So you got to be better at that, hitting your location.’’
Cessa, a former shortstop in the Mets’ organization, was traded to the Tigers last year as part of the deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. The Tigers also got Michael Fulmer, who has become an integral part of their starting rotation. Last February, the Tigers sent Cessa and Chad Green to the Yankees for Justin Wilson.
Cessa’s next start likely will be pressure-packed when the Yankees play the Red Sox over the weekend in Boston.
“Every start is important to me,’’ he said. “Every time I go out there, I want to give the best I have, and right now, I just got to focus on the next one.’’