Best of 2007: Moment #20

Jeff Karstens / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Moment #20 – Jeff Karstens Rehab Appearance
July 17, 2007
Trenton, NJ

Moment #20 takes us to Waterfront Park in Trenton, where pitcher Jeff Karstens made his one and only rehab appearance with the club against the Binghamton Mets.  While it was overshadowed by Phil Hughes, who had appeared four days earlier and would make his final start one day later, Karstens pitched well, allowing one run on four hits in five innings for the win.

Only a small media contingent showed up to see his latest stop on the comeback trail from a broken leg that derailed one of the more surprising Thunder-related success stories of 2007.

A line drive off the bat of Julio Lugo on April 28th fractured the fibula of the Thunder alum, who spent all of 2005 with the team and part of 2006.  The 19th round pick put up some pretty pedestrian numbers in his first season with the ballclub, going 12-11 with a 4.15 ERA in 169 innings pitched, but established himself as a legitimate prospect in 2006 after a 6-0 run with the Thunder after being sent down from Triple-A Columbus early in the season.

Karstens pitched well in limited action for the Yankees in 2006 after being called up in late August, and entered the 2007 season as a member of the starting rotation in the big leagues after a so-so showing in Spring Training.

But a season that started with so much promise never really got back on track, at least at the big league level, with Karstens allowing 11 earned runs in 10.1 innings in the five games he appeared in after eventually returning from the injury after a few starts in Triple-A Scranton.

But even with a rough first inning and sitting through a brief rain delay, you’d have never predicted Karstens would have faltered after seeing him on that gloomy mid-summer day.

“My body felt good for the most part,” Karstens said at the time.

“I didn’t throw as good as I thought I could, I was kind of off on a few fastballs and changeups, but it got better towards the end.”

Karstens was also impressed with Thunder pitching coach Scott Aldred, who will be returning to the team this year.

“He’s been good, he’s got a lot of insight on a lot of things,” he said.

“All pitching coaches are different, you’ve just got to take certain things from all of them and just go from there.”

Where does Karstens go from his 2007 season?  It would seem highly likely that he’ll be starting the year in Scranton, as so many pitchers seemed to pass him in the organization.  Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and possibly even Daniel McCutchen all whizzed by Karstens on the depth chart and unless the Yankees think he can help their bullpen, it seems hard to believe that he’ll get a chance as good as the one he had at the start of 2007.

Right now, he’s probably on par with Steven White and Darrell Rasner, although a strong showing in the Baseball World Cup might have buoyed his stock in the organization, if only slightly.

However, considering Tyler Clippard was sent all the way down to Double-A after making his big league debut earlier in ’07, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see Karstens make a cameo in Trenton as well…but if things ever reached that point, the Yankees might be better off following the path they did with Clippard and try to get a quality prospect in return for him.

Needless to say, this is a make or break year — pardon the pun — for Karstens.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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