It was like I watched Andrew Brackman grow up. Then again, he is 6-foot-11, so…
But there he is (above), going from Double-A to Triple-A, and then all the way to the big leagues. But, in a stint with the Yankees organization that had far more downs than ups, New York declined his option for 2012, and thus made their former first round draft pick a free agent.
Taken 30th overall in the 2007 draft, the Yankees got just 2 1/3 Major League innings of out their big right-hander. All in all, he posted a 15-29 mark in three minor league seasons, with a 5.11 ERA and 190 walks compared to 304 strikeouts in 343 1/3 innings of work. After seeming to make significant progress towards the end of the 2010 season in Double-A Trenton, Brackman regressed in 2011 and struggled for the majority of the year in Triple-A Scranton, leaving many to wonder if he’d be sent back down to Trenton last season, a move that ultimately never happened.
But he did make improvements towards the end of the year, rebounding from a horrible June in which he allowed 21 runs in 15 innings to allow just three runs in his final 20 1/3 frames at PNC Field. It were those improvements — which he’ll tell you about in a bit — that led to a Major League call-up and some optimism for a possible return in 2012.
But that’s a return that will likely come with another organization. Brackman is an unfailingly nice kid who was always a professional when it came to answering some of the tough questions that his performance led me to ask…but he’s also likely thrown his last pitch in pinstripes, and will need to find another team to take a chance on him. While he always has and continues to have a tremendous upside, he’s slowly running out of time to fulfill his potential.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Brackman late in the 2011 season in the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium — my July feature from Scranton can be found here — and here’s how the conversation went…
Mike Ashmore: (I spoke with Brackman the day before he made his big league debut…) I don’t know if you read this kind of stuff or hear about it, but there have been a lot of fans saying, ‘Get Brackman in a game, we want to see him,’ and that’s kind of a turnaround from a couple years back when people would say ‘Brackman’s a bust’ and so on. Does that make you feel good or matter at all that people are saying nice things about you?
Andrew Brackman: “Yeah, but you know, somebody told me the other day you don’t really try to listen to the fans. It kind of like — somebody told me the other day — they’re fans, you don’t owe the fans anything other than a good performance. That’s what I’m going to try to do out there.”
Ashmore: Your performance is obviously something we’ve talked about a lot the past few seasons…you were certainly struggling a lot at times in Scranton this year. We last talked in July, and you were having a bit of a rough patch there. How did you ultimately turn everything around?
Brackman: ”To tell you the truth, it was just a minor mechanical change. I moved my hands up from my waist up to about mid-chest. The ball just started to come out of my hand a lot better. I just went back to watching college film, and saw that and did it one day in the bullpen. It was one of my better bullpens, so I just stuck with it.”
Ashmore: What you do now…is it exactly what you were doing in college or is it a little different?
Brackman: ”It’s a little bit different. But I think this off-season, I’m not going to stop throwing. I’m going to try to throw at least two bullpens a week and maybe get back to those college mechanics.”
Ashmore: How difficult is it when people are telling you” try this, try that” with your mechanics and it seems like you know what works for you…you’re going back to your college stuff, which obviously you had before you came to this organization…people are trying to do the right thing for you, but at the same time, has it been difficult with them telling you 20 different things?
Brackman: ”I understand that every pitching coach I’ve had in this organization is trying to help me and have their input or say to try to get me to that next level. You know, some of it works and some of it I’m not comfortable with. It’s up to me to speak my mind and tell them how I feel about things. Sometimes I try and please everyone, which is not a good thing, not for me. I just have to just listen to myself and do what’s right for me.”
Ashmore: What’s the goal for you for next season?
Brackman: ”That’s tough. Next season, I just want to put a whole season together. I haven’t done that yet. I ended strong last year, and I ended strong again this year. But I want to start strong and finish strong.”
Ashmore: Tell me how a six-foot-11 guy looks in a pink backpack…
Brackman: “I draw a lot of attention. (laughs)”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com