Before 2009: For as much as it feels like I’ve written about Alan Horne over the past few years, it’s hard to believe that he only has four professional seasons under his trademark John Deere hat.
Drafted by the Indians in the first round all the way back in 2001, Horne wouldn’t debut professionally until 2006, after being drafted by the Yankees. He debuted at High-A Tampa, which was an indication of the kind of expectations that the organization had of their highly touted pitcher. His season was somewhat of a mixed bag, as he was third in the Florida State League in both walks and strikeouts. In 28 appearances, including 26 starts, he posted a 6-9 record and 4.84 ERA.
2007 was where Horne established himself as a possible future Yankee, going 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 starts in Double-A Trenton. He led the Eastern League in both ERA and strikeouts (165) and was deservingly named theleague’s Pitcher of the Year. But everything started to fall apart the following season.
Horne started out 2008 in Triple-A Scranton, just one level away from wearing Yankee pinstripes. He never got there. Biceps pain caused Horne to leave an early season start, and he ultimately needed to undergo surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff. He simply hasn’t been the same since.
2009: For all intents and purposes, Horne would most likely rather I not write about what happened during his 2009 season. Or his 2008 season, too. For the last two years now, Horne has essentially wasted key years of his career thanks to battling injuries.
In 2009 specifically, Horne started the season a month late, being assigned to Trenton in early May. He made five appearances, including four starts, and didn’t look like the guy who tore up the Eastern League two years earlier. To be honest, he got rocked. An 0-3 record, 11.15 ERA, 16:13 BB/K ratio and .352 average against are all evidence of that.
Horne finished the year trying to get back to Trenton with the Yankees affiliate in the Gulf Coast League and Low-A Charleston, but never ended up making it back.
After 2009: Assuming he’s healthy — which unfortunately hasn’t been a safe assumption with Horne over the past few years — Horne could start the season in either Trenton or Scranton. He’s still regarded as a prospect, although his time is clearly running out. He’ll be 27 years old when the season starts and has only eight games of Triple-A experience.
Simply put, Horne cannot afford to miss any starts this year. Out of sight, out of mind. And a once promising career is now perilously close to being permanently derailed. Anyone who’s ever met Horne is unlikely to have a bad thing to say about him. He’s quite possibly one of the most laid back athletes I’ve ever met, and his “aw, shucks” attitude off the field can often overshadow what a competitor he is on the mound. I remember getting to the ballpark about six hours before gametime to cover Horne’s simulated game, and even though it was just that, a simulated game, I kept track of a few things that day: Balls, strikes and expletives. It was that amount of care and intensity that played a big role in Horne’s magical 2007 season. And, if he stays healthy, it’s why a lot of people continue to believe in him despite a 24-month stretch where he’s given people little reason to do so.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com