Rocket relaunch live-blogged

On May 6, the Stadium erupted when Roger Clemens announced his return. Today, on a hot, muggy day in New York, Clemens is just a minute or two away from his debut. He’s facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I’ll be here live-blogging. So let’s get to work.

Seventh Inning: The Yanks score three runs in the top of the sixth, and Brian Bruney is on the hill in relief of Clemens. Cairo is at first, and Melky makes up for last night’s error with a great play to lead off the inning. That’s it for the live blog. We’ll have some Clemens analysis later on. Let’s hope the Yankee bullpen can nail down another win.

For the rest of the live blog, continue reading below.

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Why can’t the Pirates develop pitchers?

Today won’t be as much of a recap as a rail on the Pirates and their history with pitchers. The idea came up after I got a text message or two during the game asking if Gorzelanny is really that good.

The answer is yes. The kid can flat deal. The question, though, is whether the Pirates will screw him up like they have nearly every other promising pitcher that has gone through their system.

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Igawa pitching o-Kei at Scranton

After a disastrous introduction to the Major Leagues, the Yankees sent Kei Igawa down to Tampa to work with pitching guru Billy Connors. And then he disappeared. Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo filled in at the back end of the rotation, and now Roger Clemens’ return is upon us.

However, down in the Minors, Igawa is quietly showing some progress. After two alright starts at Tampa, the Yanks sent Igawa to AAA Scranton. In his first start, he was bad, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings. But lately, he’s shown some progress.

Tonight, Igawa threw 100 pitches in 7 innings. Sixty-two of those were strikes. That’s about on par with his MLB strike percentage of 61, but the results were different than we remember. He gave up just 5 hits and 1 earned run while walking 2 and striking out 8. His totals from this two most recent AAA starts look good: 14 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 17 K.

With Clippard set to start on Sunday and Igawa pitching well, I have to wonder if the pressure will start to mount just a little on young Tyler. If Clippard scuffles — and there is nothing to indicate he will — the Yanks may consider giving their expensive Japanese import another shot at the Majors.

But this may not be a good idea. Tonight, Igawa pitched well, but he got 9 fly-ball outs and only 4 ground-ball outs. In his previous start, he recorded 6 fly-ball outs and 5 ground-ball outs. Those numbers are less than impressive.

In April, Igawa’s problem came on the long ball. He has already surrendered 8 home runs in in 30.2 innings. While he’s limited the number of home runs he’s given up in the Minors, I’m not yet convinced he’ll be a viable option in the Majors. As long as the Yanks have other options, I say they should keep using him, money be damned.

Yanks 45th pick, #1345 overall

With the final pick of the 45th round, the Yanks took the awesomest pitcher in the history of the universe: Pat Venditte, from Creighton. I am not worthy to speak of his awesomeness, nor are you worthy of watching this (don’t worry, I won’t tell):

Yanks 34th pick, number 1049 overall

The Yanks took RHP Drew Storen out of Brownsburg High (In.) with the final pick of the 34th round.

Scouting Report: Low-90’s fastball, nifty slider and a very good changeup for a high school kid. At only 6′-1″, 170 lbs, he could still add some serious velocity to his fastball. Scout’s are scared off by his delivery, which has enough twisting to make Tim Lincecum blush. His got good control and a nice understanding of changing speeds.

My Take: I like the pick, and subsequently, I felt like blogging it. BA rated him as the second best prospect in the state of Indiana behind first rounder Jarrod Parker, and had him near the end of their Top 200 Draft Prospects list (subscription required). In what seems to be a running theme for Yankees’ draftees this year, he’s got a strong college commitment (Stanford) and will be a tough sign.

The 36th round is just about to end as of this writing, and so far every team is still picking except Toronto, who dropped out after the 30th round.

Moose whines more than we do at our host

Mike Mussina has been with the Yankees for nearly seven years now. He’s seen 619 of Joe Torre’s 2000 wins and 1027 of Joe’s games. Yet, for some reason – some reason I can’t fathom – Mike Mussina was pissed off after getting taken out of a 1-0 game in the 7th inning.

Now, why was Mike Mussina whining? Because he had thrown just 79 pitches and wanted to throw more. He wanted to, as he told Tyler Kepner of The Times, throw 110 pitches. And that’s just ridiculous.

Mussina, the Stanford-educated crossword-puzzle aficionado, is a smart guy. He probably knows that Joe Torre has something of a quick hook (as Joe noted earlier this afternoon). We’ve certainly been critical of Torre’s bullpen tendencies in the past, but last night, he made the right move. Mussina should know that.

Moose had just come off of a few bad outings in a row. Entering last night’s game, he was 2-3 with an ERA north of 6.20. But in six innings, he looked great last night. He had given up two hits while walking no one and striking out four. The seventh started out promisingly enough; he gave up a slow roller to Jim Thome.

But – and this is a big but – with the Thome shift on, Robinson Cano was in no position to field the ball, and Miguel Cairo, hustling all the way, couldn’t range from the second base bag to the second base hole and throw out Thome. It should have been an out, and that look crept onto Mike Mussina’s face. It was that “I’m out of my comfort zone” look. It’s the same look I’ve written about in the past.

I knew what would happen next. Mussina doesn’t get an out; he stops making the pitches. The next batter – Paul Konerko – rocketed a single off of Mussina. And that was the end of him for the night. His final line read 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. He didn’t get the win, but that’s no big deal as the Yanks crushed the Sox bullpen later on.

After the game, Mussina grumbled like a cranky old man. “Why am I upset? Because I threw 80 pitches and I think I could have thrown 110. It was the first mess I had. I just felt like I could have kept going,” he said. “I understand his thinking, but seventh inning with 79 pitches? I know I haven’t been pitching that well, but oh well. Gotta earn it back, I guess. Gotta earn it back.”

That’s right, Moose. You have to earn it back. You have to suck it up when a squibbler goes for a base hit, and you have to take your lumps like the rest of the team.

And here is just one more nail in the Mike Mussina coffin. Enough already, Mike. Just pitch. You have almost as many excuses as this guy, and we don’t like him too much.