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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Steve Garrison waits as the Yankees debate on a lefty

TAMPA, Fla. – Hours before the Yankees played their final spring training tune-up, relievers Steve Garrison and Luis Ayala stood at Garrison’s locker and exchanged pleasantries. Ayala , with four tropical-looking bracelets on his left wrist, showed off his glove to Garrison.

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Garrison tried on the glove, then asked if Ayala wanted to go play catch in the outfield to warm up their arms. Ayala politely declined, smiled, then made his way back across the room to his locker, which is just to the left of the clubhouse door as one enters.

It may not have looked it from the outside, but these two pitchers were competing for a shot at the final spot in the Yankees’ bullpen, a second left-hander to complement Boone Logan. The chance was made available because Pedro Feliciano, a southpaw whom New York acquired in the offseason, has a triceps injury that will put him on the disabled list for Thursday’s Opening Day.

For Garrison, a native of Ewing and a graduate of the Hun School in Princeton, pitching in the major leagues in the northeast would be extra special.

"To make any big league team would be an honor,” Garrison said yesterday. “It's kind of what my main goal is and everything like that. Just to be close to home is a blessing. I've always wanted to play up in the northeast where my home is and my family and friends are. It would be a really great opportunity."

Despite not being on the list of scheduled pitchers for yesterday’s game, Garrison got in an inning against the Tigers, relieving, ironically enough, Ayala. Garrison worked around two hits – both to left-handers – to keep Detroit off the board in what wound up a 2-1 Yankees win.

On the surface, the fifth inning appeared to be one final audition for manager Joe Girardi, but he’d already made it clear before the game that neither pitcher would be going north with the team initially.

“None of them are going. Ayala and Garrison are staying here. If one of them joins us, he’ll join us Wednesday evening,” the manager explained.

In the meantime, the Yankees most likely will monitor the waiver wires as other teams make their cuts before setting their final rosters tomorrow evening. If a better option pops up, they’ll pursue him and leave Garrison and Ayala to build innings in the minor leagues.

Even without a spot certain, however, one could clearly see how delighted Garrison was with spending the entire spring in big league camp. It was a far cry from last season at this time, when he was a member of the Padres organization and had his leg in a brace while recovering from knee surgery.

“It’s definitely an honor. I love being in this organization. Everybody’s been so great to me. I’m blessed to be here, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been really nice to be healthy and to be a part of all this,” he said.

Assuming the weather holds up Wednesday, Garrison and Ayala will take the long bus ride over to Bradenton to play the Pirates in a minor league game. Although neither is likely to pitch, it should be an eventful, anxious day for both hurlers.

If the Yankees don’t find anything to their liking on the scrap heap, one will hop a plane to New York to join the team before its season-opening matinee against Detroit on Thursday. For Ayala, who’s pitched in 377 games in the show, getting the call would be a welcome respite from another stint in Triple-A.

As for Garrison, who has appeared in just five games above Double-A in his career, a call late tomorrow would be a far greater thrill.

“It’s what you always wanted to do,” he said. “It’s what you’re there for. Again, I’m honored that they think highly enough of me to put me at that level.”

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