Darrell Rasner understood the reality that the New York Yankees put a lot of stock into its two highly touted young pitchers in Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.
But now that Rasner, a 1999 Carson High graduate, has received his chance, based on his debut, it looks like he's determined to take advantage of his opportunity.
Rasner pitched six strong innings in his season debut to help the Yankees cruise to an 8-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Rasner took the roster spot previously held by Kennedy, who was sent to Triple-A to work on his game. Rasner actually took the spot of Hughes in the rotation as Hughes is expected to be out with a rib injury until at least July.
Rasner, who suffered a season-ending right finger injury when the Yankees gave him a chance last May, took the mound on Sunday and carried on the same way he'd been pitching in Scranton - with much success. And he had a lot of help from a Yankees offense that raked Mariners pitching for 14 hits, including six in a six-run third inning that was New York's biggest single-inning outburst this season.
"I didn't put any extra thought into what went on," Rasner told MLB.com when asked about how much stock the Yankees had invested in Hughes and Kennedy being successful this season. "I wanted to go out every day and pitch, and pitch well. I knew there would be an opportunity, because we used so many pitchers last year. I wanted to heal and be sharp and give myself that opportunity."
Rasner gave up a two-out single that was followed by a two-run homer by Adrian Beltre in the first inning. After that, he gave up only three hits in a six-inning effort that included four strikeouts and no walks.
"He had command of both sides of the plate," said catcher Chad Moeller. "The first inning, it looked like he was just trying to get comfortable out there. He looked committed to his pitches after the first."
Rasner threw 76 pitches, including 49 strikes. He would have gone out for the seventh if manager Joe Giradi didn't have to give his bullpen some work with a day off today.
"He was able to take a breath, and then it turned into just a game," Moeller said. "He got out of it, and after that, I could see the difference. He was really starting to roll as the game went on. He was right where he wanted to be. He threw a lot of strikes, worked quickly, kept the defense on its toes and avoided the dreaded walk."
Girardi, who said before the game that Rasner will get another start - either Friday or Saturday in Detroit - was pleased but not terribly surprised by the starter's effort.
Girardi said it was important that Rasner pounded the strike zone because it helped the Yankees' defense stay alert and the offense rise with no deficit to close.
"You still have to make quality pitches," Girardi said. "But obviously, if you aren't walking people, your control is good."
Girardi said that Rasner had a chance to make the team this spring, but the Yankees had committed to Hughes and Kennedy, two recent first-round draft choices. Rasner said he had no hard feelings, or great expectations.
"It was tough - it was disappointing," Rasner said when he learned that he was to start the season in Scranton. "But what am I going to do about it? I'm not going to whine. I'm going to be professional, and I'm going to be ready to pitch every five days.
"I just needed some innings under my belt, because last year, I didn't pitch too much. It has been a long year, a long time. I'm going to do my best to help this team out and try to run with this opportunity."
Girardi said their may have been some lingering effects for Rasner in spring training from last year's injury.
"He had a shot," Girardi told Newsday about making the opening day roster. "We didn't see the real Darrell Rasner in spring training. I mean, he threw OK, but he wasn't nearly as sharp as he was here."