It is a scene still etched into everyone’s memory. Manager Joe Girardi sends long-time teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte to the mound to take Mariano Rivera out of his last game at Yankee Stadium. Amid the tears and the roar of the crowd, Jeter and Pettitte signaled for the new pitcher to come out and finish the game. That pitcher was Matt Daley.
Daley has been invited to Tampa for Spring Training once again by the Yankees. Shortly after last season’s September call-up, he was non-tendered by the club. His free agency period didn’t last too long as the Yankees quickly re-signed him in December.
Daley’s baseball career has been quite the roller coaster ride. After going undrafted in 2004, the Colorado Rockies signed the right-handed pitching prospect out of Bucknell University. The amateur free agent worked his way up through the minors and made his major league debut in May of 2009. He proved to be a valuable addition to the bullpen as he pitched well and helped the Rockies to the playoffs that season, even recording one scoreless appearance in the playoffs against the eventual NL Champion Phillies. He continued to pitch out of the Rockies bullpen through the 2010 season. In May of 2011, still in the Rockies’ bullpen, Daley began to feel discomfort in his right shoulder which led to several stints on the DL. It was determined Daley had tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and would require surgery. At the end of the season, the Rockies released Daley and the Yankees quickly signed him.
The Yankees saw promise in Daley as they held onto him despite not being able to throw a single pitch until 2013. After successfully rehabbing his shoulder to full health, Daley rewarded the Yankees for their faith in him. He quickly tore right through the three minor league levels compiling a 5-3 record with one save while posting a 2.02 ERA and a 74 K/ 10 BB ratio over 53.1 innings. In turn, the Yankees gave him a September call-up. Daley’s long awaited return to the bigs couldn’t have gone better: over 6 scoreless innings he allowed no runs or walks while striking out 8 batters. He picked up his first win in four years when the Yankees beat the Astros on the last day of the season.
Daley, a Queens native, doesn’t have the typical pitcher’s frame standing at 6’2″ and 180 pounds. He is a submarine-style pitcher who confuses batters with his odd delivery. His fastball only tops out in the 80s but he compliments it with a change-up in the high 70s. He doesn’t possess elite stuff but can still miss bats with his unique delivery.
Daley has some stiff competition in Tampa due to his age. It will be tough for him to break camp battling so many younger pitchers that the Yankees have been waiting on to blossom. His big league experience, especially in the playoffs, should be enough to keep him around Triple-A for organizational depth. It’s safe to say that at some point in the 2014 season, Yankee fans will see Daley running out to the mound once again.