Royce Ring was home in San Diego. He was taking his six-month-old baby girl — the one who was born during spring training — to a routine checkup on Tuesday when he got a call from his agent. The Yankees had tried to get in touch with Ring, and he hadn’t answered.
Four days earlier, Ring had wrapped up one of the finest minor league seasons of his career, but he’d given up the idea of joining the Yankees when a second round of September call-ups came and went. Ring told himself that his .202 opponents batting average against lefties would at least help him earn a good job for next year.
Brian Cashman told him he wasn’t finished with this year just yet.
“He said, ‘What time do you want to leave tomorrow?’” Ring said. “I said, ‘As early as you can get me out.’”
That meant a 6:20 flight to Atlanta, a connection to Tampa and a chance to play a role well into October.
Last year the Yankees had Damaso Marte and Phil Coke in the playoffs. Marte was positively dominant as their late-innings left-handed reliever, and Coke was good through the first two rounds.
This year, the Yankees have learned to lean on Boone Logan, but Ring has a little more than two weeks to make them think about carrying a second lefty in the playoffs. He could easily be more valuable than an extra position player or extra long reliever, but that’s assuming he passes what seems to be a down-the-stretch audition.
As the Yankees saw this week, Tampa Bay is willing to put three straight lefties in their lineup against a right-handed starter (though they’re also willing to pinch hit Sean Rodriguez or Willy Aybar if a lefty comes in from the pen). The Rangers have Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon, David Murphy and Mitch Moreland getting regular playing time from the left side, and the Twins have Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Joe Mauer and possibly Justin Morneau. Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson is generally worse against lefties than righties.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for me,” Ring said. “I’m hoping to make the most of it and help them out. Obviously they’re pushing for the playoffs, and if I can help them out in any way, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Photo of Ring from my friends at the Scranton Times-Tribune