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Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Sep 29, 2009 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

I was going to post the link to my story. Then I noticed that a big chunk of the story was missing on the version that was posted on LoHud.com. Plus if you use Safari, you can’t get to the second page anyway. So here is the original version.

Once again, I apologize for the web site’s problems.

By Peter Abraham
pabraham@LoHud.com

NEW YORK — The cavernous home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium still smelled faintly of the champagne spilled in celebration the day before when Brian Bruney arrived early Monday afternoon.

The 27-year-old relief pitcher contributed significantly to the victory that clinched the American League East, entering the game at the start of the seventh inning and retiring all five batters he faced as the Yankees beat the Red Sox.

Bruney’s unshaven face still wore a smile a day later.

“The thing that was special for me was the crowd reaction,” said the 27-year-old right-hander, referring to the standing ovation the fans gave him when he left the mound in the eighth inning. “I’ve been through a lot all year, fighting a lot of injuries, mechanics and pitching like garbage. I would have loved to look up and give a thank you, but honestly I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t do it. That’s been my best moment in baseball. It was an awesome feeling.

“New York fans aren’t like any other fans. They feel baseball and they feel it with you.”

Bruney did not pitch in Monday’s 8-2 victory against the Kansas City Royals. But there are five games remaining in the regular season for him to try and convince the team’s decision-makers that he belongs on the roster for the American League Division Series next week.

The primary set-up man when the season started, Bruney pitched well in the opening weeks before going on the disabled list on April 25 with a sore elbow.

After missing nearly a month, Bruney returned and pitched in only one game before going back on the disabled list. He admitted to misleading the team about how he felt, which drew the ire of manger Joe Girardi.

Bruney caused more problems on June 13 when — unprompted — he criticized Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, saying he had a “tired act.”

Rodriguez tried to confront Bruney during batting practice a day later, sparking a brief fray that CC Sabathia helped quell. Bruney was called into the manager’s office again, this time told to keep inflammatory opinions private.

Bruney has pitched in 35 games since with varying results, putting 53 runners on base over 27 2/3 innings and posting a 4.55 ERA. Bruney was so desperate to change his fortunes earlier this month that he changed his uniform number, dropping 38 to become only the second player in team history to wear 99.

The last was outfielder Charlie “King Kong” Keller, who wore 99 in the two games he played with the Yankees in 1952.

Keller did not make the postseason roster that year. Will Bruney? Girardi and coaches will meet with general manager Brian Cashman and members of his staff before the game on Tuesday to discuss the roster. Bruney’s status will be one of the prime subjects of debate.

The Yankees are planning to bring 10 pitchers to the best-of-five Division Series. With only three starters needed, Joba Chamberlain will work out of the bullpen. That figures to bump Bruney, Chad Gaudin or Damaso Marte off the roster.

Bruney believes he deserves a spot, saying his performance Sunday was a sign of what is to come.

“I’ve been feeling better. My mechanics, right now, I feel like myself when I go out there,” he said. “You can build off of that. I feel good right now and it’s the right time to feel good.”

Girardi was non-committal.

“He had such a good April for us and then he got hurt and it was a long road with his rehab and getting back and (he) had some setbacks,” the manager said. “We’re going to have a lot of tough decisions. But I believe that Brian Bruney has a ton of talent.”

Bruney’s fate could be determined based on how he pitches in the next few days. Though meaningless for the Yankees, Bruney can bolster his resume in those games.

“I think I’ll be there,” he said. “I hope they feel that way.”

Notes: Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera were the only regulars in the lineup. Cano had a grand slam and rookie Ramiro Pena the first home run of his career. … The Steinbrenner family invited the players and coaches to a reception at the Stadium’s steakhouse after the game on Tuesday. … Right-handed reliever Dave Robertson, whose status could impact Bruney, has been cleared to pitch after missing 24 days with a sore elbow. … A.J. Burnett will rejoin the team on Tuesday and is scheduled to face the Royals. He was excused from Monday’s game to be with his father Bill, who underwent triple-bypass surgery in Arkansas. “Everything went well,” Girardi said.

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