A Tale Of Two Seasons For Small
Small trying to rediscover his magic of 2005
Small trying to rediscover his magic of 2005

Posted Jul 2, 2006


Aaron Small has experienced the ultimate highs and lows over the course of the past twelve months. The struggling right-hander was designated for assignment on June 17th and is back in Columbus after clearing waivers. Small sat down with PinstripesPlus.com to discuss what went wrong in New York and his plan to make a return trip to the Bronx.

Aaron Small, 34, put on a show that Yankees fans will treasure for a long time. Small became the first pitcher in franchise history to achieve victory in his first 10 games. He went 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA and helped the Yankees claim another American League East division title. As memorable a season as it was for Small, it seems by many as in the distant past with the numbers he has put up in pinstripes this season.

In 11 appearances for the Yankees this season, Small accumulated an abysmal 8.46 ERA going 0-3 in that span. It has been a tale of two seasons for the veteran and the opportunity to get back to the level that made him successful just a short time ago awaits in Columbus.

Pitchers in the big leagues are demoted to the minors on a consistent basis and many have a tough time with the unfortunate news. That is not the case with Small. He admits that he has struggled this season in New York. Small wants to help the club in any way, shape or form and if it means taking a demotion to Columbus to work out his kinks, he is all for it. After apologizing to Yankees skipper Joe Torre for letting the team down, it is not hard to see how Small is an ultimate team guy.

Getting back to his 2005 form translates into making good pitches - period. This is the case for all pitchers but Small, specifically, because he is naturally a contact pitcher. Small agrees.

Small told PinstripesPlus.com, “I think I need to be more consistent and execute on my pitches. I wasn’t doing that up there [New York] and I don’t blame them for sending me down because I wasn’t getting the job done.”

Although being forced to play in the minor leagues is not something a player looks forward to, Small is upbeat about having the opportunity to work with Columbus pitching coach Neil Allen. Allen was the bullpen coach in New York in 2005 and worked with Small last season. The right-hander admits the help of Allen could lead to a speedy improvement.

“I look at coming to Columbus as a chance to get better and fix what the problem was and to work here with Neil Allen, who is a great pitching coach,” admitted Small.

Pressure comes with the territory when pitching in New York and some pitchers thrive on the pressure and others crumble to the ground. Small believes that he is most comfortable with high stakes, huge crowds and pressure at a maximum.

A lot of critics have labeled Small as a one-hit wonder last season and blame the pressures of the Bronx for his failure this season. He reiterates that he simply wasn’t executing pitches and the fact that he has crumbled under pressure is completely bogus.

“I enjoyed it in New York. The bigger the crowds the better it is for me. It wasn’t the pressure, it is just I wasn’t executing pitches and I wasn’t getting the job done,” said Small.

As many fans are aware, Small presents the ability to pitch in the rotation as well as in relief out of the bullpen. He labels himself as a starter, however, realizes he must be willing to record outs at any time during a game. He says the Yankees were coming to the conclusion that he was trying to find himself as a reliever.

“They (Yankees) know I’m a starter. I feel I’ve had success in the past as a reliever but I told them when they sent me out that I wasn’t making excuses when they told me that I wasn’t a starter and was trying to find myself as a reliever. I told them that pitching is executing pitches and it’s all just pitching to me. Whenever I get the ball I need to get the job done,” said Small.

When a pitcher throws a sinker ball belt high and it fails to have much sink to it, the results are not going to come out positive. This has been the case for Small with the Yankees in 2006. The 17-year veteran’s main focus in Columbus is location, mainly getting the ball down. The sinker ball is his bread and butter and it sets up all of his other pitches. In short, the effectiveness of his sinker highly determines his success rate.

“I’m a sinker baller and when you throw sinkers belt high you get bad results. I don’t think it’s a big thing. I just think a couple minor adjustments in my mechanics will help me get the ball down better,” said Small.

Small isn’t at all worried about pitching for the Yankees at this point.

“I’m not thinking about going back to New York and I’m not thinking about going back to the big leagues. I’m thinking about playing here for the Columbus Clippers and doing the best I can to help this team win. Along the way I’m going to try to fix the problem and put the work in that I have for the past 17 years,” said Small.

It’s hard to say but Small clearing waivers could be one of the more fortunate stories for the Yankees in the second half of the season. With what he accomplished last season, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Small provides the ability to present Yankee fans with an encore.


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