Welcoming back Scott Proctor

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Ryan Pope designated for assignment among flurry of moves
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Did anyone honestly think that Scott Proctor had any chance to pitch for the Yankees this year? Before the season no one would have given it a thought. Even after the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal last month I’m not sure anyone expected him to actually make the major league roster. And yet this morning we got the news that he would, indeed, don the pinstripes and make his return to the Yankees. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Proctor, and even longer since he’s been consistently effective. So what makes this time around any different?

For many of us the return of Proctor isn’t about pitching, per se. It’s about an emotional attachment to a guy who pitched so well that he fell victim to the Joe Torre bullpen death trap. (After all, the Death by Bullpen category was created because of Torre.) That tends to happen when a guy makes his debut as a Yankee and has quality stuff. It took Proctor a while to harness his fastball, but by 2006 he had turned into a reliable reliever at a time when the Yankees searched desperately for one. He was a savior of sorts, providing pain-free innings when the rest of the bullpen, especially Kyle Farnsworth, made games a bit more difficult.

It was hard to ask more of the guy than he provided in 2006. He led the league in appearances that year with 83, tossing 102.1 innings. All of them were in relief. No reliever has tossed 100 innings since. They key to his success was his walk rate, just 2.9 per nine, which was down a half point from the previous season. He also kept his hit rate down, thanks to a .258 BABIP. In even the previous season that didn’t seem possible, thanks to his straight as an arrow fastball. But it appeared that in 2006 he added a little movement, and that helped him succeed.

Of course, that many innings and that many appearances takes a toll on the arm. Proctor didn’t show the signs in 2006, though one teammate, Ron Villone, did. Even in 2007 Proctor produced quality results, a 3.81 ERA in 54.1 innings as a Yankee. But he clearly wasn’t the same pitcher as he was in 2006. While he managed to keep his hit rate at a normal level, he started to walk tons of batters — 4.8 per nine to be specific, or nearly two per nine more than the previous season. By July’s end the Yankees had apparently seen enough. They traded him to LA for Wilson Betemit, thereby acquiring the quality reserve infielder they had long sought.

In 2008 Proctor missed more than two months with elbow troubles, and in 2009 he underwent Tommy John surgery. He barely pitched in the majors in 2010, spending most of it with the Braves’ AAA affiliate. This year he re-signed with the Braves and earned a call-up after impressing in AAA. Yet his stint in the majors went terribly. He walked more than he struck out, and he allowed five homers in just 29.1 innings. His release from the Braves came with no surprise. The only surprise, really, was that the Yanks considered him at all.

Maybe the Yankees felt they owed him something. After all, towards the end of Torre’s tenure Brian Cashman spoke out about how his manager handled relievers. He reiterated those criticisms earlier this year. There’s also the issue of Proctor’s alcoholism, which apparently was part of the reason the Yankees traded him in 2007. In the linked article, a characteristically excellent one from Tyler Kepner, Proctor mentions that he wanted to show Cashman how he changed. Now he’ll get his chance.

While the emotional angle plays up well, it can’t be the only reason the Yankees are giving Proctor another chance. This is a business, after all, and recalling Proctor means they’ll have to sacrifice someone on their 40-man roster. That bears real costs, so they have to think that he can actually help the club. While he did experience poor results this year he did have some oomph on his fastball, averaging 93.7 mph. He hasn’t hit those speeds since 2008. He was also seemingly burned by his breaking stuff. Perhaps, then, the Yankees see something they think they can correct. They’d better, if they want this decision to work out.

Chances are that Proctor is a non-factor down the stretch and that he’s off the roster either before season’s end, or early in the off-season. But his mere presence on the roster evokes feelings of the days when he was a real force in the Yankees’ bullpen. He was, for a stretch in 2006, the only reliable piece of the bridge to Mariano. He won’t be in that role this year. He won’t sniff high-leverage situations. But there’s something reassuringly nostalgic about having him back on the roster. May he pitch well and prosper again in pinstripes.

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Where does Posada stand?
Ryan Pope designated for assignment among flurry of moves
  • Adam

    Somehow it just feels good to have Proctor back, no matter the initial surprise (and, yes, all the Torre jokes). It would be great if he contributed down the stretch, and who knows perhaps he catches lightening in a bottle. Either way, I say good on the Yanks and good for Proctor for turning things around in his life.

    • joey12508

      i wish him well. with AJ pitching we need all the help we can get.

  • Mike Myers

    Is Mike Myers coming back next!?!?!?!?!?

    • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

      Are you campaigning to get your career back?

    • IRF

      No. First Sturtze, then Quantrill, then Steve Karsay.

      • Ed

        Sturtze… I loved his stint with the Dodgers. The transaction wire went something like this:

        Scott Proctor placed on 15 Day DL
        Purchased the contract of Tanyon Sturtze

        a few weeks later…

        Tanyon Sturtze Designated for Assignment
        Scott Proctor activated from 15 Day DL

        Torre was relieving his time with the Yankees.

      • Will (the other one)

        If Graeme Lloyd and Sterling Hitchcock aren’t involved, count me out.

  • Jorge

    He can now enter Cooperstown in pinstripes.

    I friggin love this guy. No matter what happens from here on out, I’m glad he gets another chance.

  • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

    I was a huge Scott Proctor fan in 2006. I loved this guy in pinstripes. I was thouroughly dissapointed when we traded him to LA. I cant say I am expecting anything out of his return given the health issues, personal issues and just overall decline but I sincerley hope he doesnt pitch awfully and we get to see #43 on his back, lookin like a guy who can handle himself out there. Best of luck Mr. Proctor, welcome back home.

  • Phife Dawg

    Speaking of Ron Villone, he now pitches for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlatntic League.

    Just goes to show that teams will always look for a left-handed pitcher, no longer how old or crappy he is.

  • Brian in NH

    hundreds of comments on the montero posts….5 on the Scott Proctor post. Ol’ Scotty just doesn’t move the needle like Jesus.

    • Jorge

      I can’t believe they waited this long to bring Proctor up. The team is clearly holding back his progress and does not know how to manage young players.

      • Brian in NH

        Clearly the Yankees have no idea how to develop pitching

  • Martins Stache

    And Noesi is still down why? While trash like Ayala get important innings?

    • IRF

      Noesi has to be in the minors for 10 days before he can be recalled.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      When’s the last time Ayala pitched an important inning? June?

      • Martins Stache

        Ummmmm, last night.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          That was important? If that’s important, your top relievers will be burnt out by July.

    • Sayid J.

      Lol.

  • Will (the other one)

    Regardless of how Proctor performs during this second stint in pinstripes, I’ll always have a soft spot for him. He was a lifesaver in ’06, and I always sort of admired the fact that he’d come in and do whatever was asked of him (even as his workload got more and more strenuous) without complaining. And now, I guess he’s sort of like that puppy you adopted after he was abused by a previous owner–he may pee all over the carpet and chew up every shred of clothing you own, but you just can’t help but love the poor guy.

    • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

      +1

  • The Scout

    When has a sequel in pinstripes worked out well for the Yankees? It didn’t with Jeff Nelson, Roger Clemens, Jim Leyritz, Javy Vasquez, or Nick Johnson. The stakes here are much lower, of course, but I expect nothing good to come of this.

    • Will (the other one)

      Tino in ’05, maybe?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Ruben Sierra!

    • radnom

      ANDY PETTITTE

    • rbizzler

      #46. That is all.

      • radnom

        Beat you by mere seconds.

        • rbizzler

          Saw that. I will add Booomer Wells to the list of second stinters.

          • ArchStanton

            Dwight Gooden was shockingly effective during his second stint as I recall. His first start back against the Mets during that home-away double-header was one of my favorite moments of the 2000 season anyway.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    Proctor is back!? We DFA Pope just to have Proctor on the roster!? Awww dip :D

  • JD

    me too

  • well you know

    Bobby Murcer. For Thurman’s night if nothing else.

  • Mbovasso

    Speaking about mngrs – Billy Martin