Not even four months after he had surgery to remove an aneurysm under his right armpit, David Cone triumphantly returned to a big league mound this afternoon and almost etched his name into baseball history. He tossed seven no-hit innings against one of the most powerful lineups in the game, and the Yankees came away with the victory, 5-0.
In a year with so many storylines and dramatic moments in the Bronx, Cone’s extraordinary comeback is the latest tale in one of the most entertaining Yankee seasons in recent memory. For the 33-year-old former Cy Young Award winner, today almost didn’t seem possible back in May – when news of an aneurysm in his right armpit doomed his season and maybe his career.
On May 10, doctors replaced the infected artery in his right armpit with a one-inch vein graft. Cone didn’t pick up a baseball until June 26, when, after a month of conditioning, he began a rehab assignment with the Norwich Navigators – the Yankees’ double-A affiliate. After just two rehab starts, Cone was ready to return.
A no-hitter is something Cone has yet to accomplish. It would’ve been the icing on the cake today, but the most important thing was making it through the game healthy. “I’ll never wonder if this could have been my last opportunity to throw one,” said Cone said. “I wouldn’t think that way. I appreciate that they took me out of the game. It’s more important for us to get to the playoffs and the World Series.” (Via NY Times)
Manager Joe Torre made the tough decision of removing Cone, who retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced. “If I would have left him in to throw 105 or 106 pitches and his shoulder would have been achy tomorrow or down the road, I never would have been able to live with myself,” Torre said. “I would have always regretted it.” (Via NY Times)
Cone used all five of his pitches to control the A’s, who are currently on pace to set the record for most home runs in a season. He was backed by his offense, which put up runs in three straight innings to take a 5-0 lead. In the sixth, a hit-by-pitch to Cecil Fielder with the bases loaded put New York on the board. In the seventh, Charlie Hayes hit a solo homer, and Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams each drove in runs with RBI singles off A’s starter Ariel Prieto. Fielder added a solo shot in the eighth to cap the scoring for the Yankees.
Cone was the star, however. He threw five straight balls to open the game but settled into a groove after the first inning. “It really surprised me, considering the way I started,” Cone said afterward. “I struggled in the first. I didn’t have a feel for anything. The first five pitches weren’t close. I was just thinking, ‘Don’t let them get anything.’ ” (Via NY Times)
The A’s almost broke through for hits in their final two at-bats against Cone. With one out in the seventh, Mark McGwire hit a sharp groundball to Hayes who was able to dive and recover to get the out at first. Then, with two outs, Geronimo Berroa hit a towering fly ball to center field, which Bernie Williams tracked down with a leap at the wall to end the inning.
Mariano Rivera came on to try and complete the no-hitter, but he allowed an infield single to Jose Herrera with one out in the ninth. “It was disappointing,” Rivera said, “but we weren’t here looking for that. We were here to win the game.” (Via NY Times)
Cone, the Yankees’ $19.5 million pitcher, is returning at the right moment. The Yankees are trying to move on from a terrible August and march towards the playoffs. Everyone knows the importance of having a pitcher like Cone on the active roster.
“He’s always been a gamer,” catcher Joe Girardi said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the league. That’s why everyone wants him in September for the pennant run.” (Via NY Times)