The New York Yankees have gotten off to a good start to the MLB season largely thanks to the play of some resurgent veteran hitters. Should they need to dip into their farm system for a pitcher anytime soon, another veteran is making a strong case to return to the big leagues.
Right hander Chris Bootcheck took the ball for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is the second game of a doubleheader at Charlotte. The Rail Raiders had taken the opener by a 5-4 score and Bootcheck did the lion’s share of the work in the nightcap, posting six shutout innings and holding the Knights to a mere two hits. He walked a pair but struck out six and improved to 3-0 on the young season. His scoreless outing on Monday lowered his ERA to a microscopic 0.38 in his four starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
If Bootcheck’s name is unfamiliar to you, you would be blamed, though his pro career began with a good amount of fanfare. The Angles made Bootcheck a first-round draft pick (20th overall) out of Auburn back in the June 2000 draft. Unfortunately, though he advanced quickly through the Anaheim (at the time) system, Bootcheck didn’t have great success. In his first three years of pro ball, the Indiana native didn’t post an ERA under 4.25 in any season and his strikeout rates dropped in each year as well. After getting a September call-up in 2003, Bootcheck saw his Triple-A ERA balloon to over 5.00 in each of the next two years until the Angels finally tried him as a reliever, moving him to that role in 2006.
Though he has appeared in 90 Major League games with the Angels and Pirates, Bootcheck hasn’t seen the bright lights since 2009 and he owns a career big league ERA of 6.54. To assume that Bootcheck is anything but Triple-A roster-filler would be incorrect. 34-year-olds don’t typically have career resurrections in the INternational League, which is where Bootcheck has been exclusively making his living for the past three years, and doing so for three different organizations.
Until this season, however, he’s been working almost exclusively in relief.
Bootcheck has persevered and re-made himself more than once during his career. Along the way, the learned how to strikeout more hitters and has settled in to some very respectable strikeout-to-walk ratios in recent seasons. So far in 2013, Bootcheck has fanned 20 IL batters while walking just seven in 24 innings of work. He has allowed just 15 hits and a single run for the Rail Raiders this season.
Even if the Yankees see yet another injury; one that causes them to go get a minor league arm, Bootcheck isn’t on the 40-man roster and he’s not a guy most organizations are going to risk losing a player to add. They’d likely call on a younger pitcher, one with more upside, to help them out.
Just because he might not have a bright major league future doesn’t mean his brilliant start to the International League season should go unnoticed, however.