Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

June 27, 2012

Laffey gem shows what confidence is all about

Aaron Laffey cabbed across Miami last Thursday during a Toronto Blue Jays off day to visit with some friends from Allegany High School, who were in town with hopes of seeing him pitch over the weekend against the Miami Marlins.

Though they shared a great visit with their friend, the visitors from Cumberland would leave South Beach at the end of the weekend without seeing two things and, thankfully, one of them was a tropical storm (although flying over one was no day at South Beach). Neither would they see Laffey work out of the Toronto bullpen over the weekend, for he had been informed he would be making a start on Tuesday night in Boston’s Fenway Park, where he pitched masterfully in the 2007 ALCS as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Perhaps his previous success there had something to do with the relaxed and confident manner the former Allegany Camper wore last Thursday afternoon. He is a ground-ball pitcher, and ground-ball pitchers are who you want pitching against the Red Sox in Fenway. More likely, though, his demeanor was the way it was because that’s the way Aaron Laffey’s demeanor always is when it comes to his pitching a baseball. And on Tuesday night, he again proved why, as he pitched six innings of near-unhittable baseball against the No. 2-ranked offense in the major leagues.

Placed on an 80-pitch limit, Laffey allowed three hits, struck out two and walked two in his first big league start since he pitched five solid innings for Cleveland in a 10-4 victory at Minnesota on July 19, 2010. He retired 12 straight batters after allowing a leadoff single to Mike Aviles in the first and worked his way out of a jam in the fifth. Thanks to a great throw to the plate by left fielder Rajai Davis, Laffey left after 82 pitches (48 for strikes) with a 1-0 lead.

“You always want to go back out, especially when you’re putting up zeros,” Laffey told the Associated Press. “Just make them take the ball out of your hand. You never want to give it up.”

Laffey provided a much-needed boost for a Blue Jays starting rotation that has been hit by injuries to right-handers Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison. And on the same day Toronto signed 49-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer to a minor league contract, the 27-year-old left-hander, with his six shutout innings, expressed rather convincingly his interest in filling any major league openings.

Unfortunately, the Toronto bullpen collapsed in the seventh and eighth, denying the Jays and Laffey a win. His performance, though, led the discussion after the game as he did not allow a runner to reach second until Adrian Gonzalez doubled to left to lead off the fifth.

“He did a great job out there,’’ Red Sox second baseball Dustin Pedroia told the Boston Globe. “He was locating his stuff, keeping the ball down. We really didn’t do anything. He was great for them.”

“Aaron pitched a heckuva six innings for us,” Jays manager John Farrell told the Toronto Sun. “Tonight was nearly three weeks since his last (minor league) start and we were looking at an 80-pitch limit for him. He gave us six outstanding innings.

“He had a very good recipe working. A lot of first-pitch strikes, established his fastball right from the get-go.”

“My four-seam fastball location was really good all night,” said Laffey, who posted a 4.52 ERA this season with Triple-A Las Vegas, where the ball flies out of the park. “So right off the bat, that was a strong point for me, so I kind of just stuck with that the whole night.

“I felt good — felt good warming up, felt good being back into a starting routine. Just wanted to go out and throw as many quality strikes as I could.”

Laffey made 47 relief appearances with the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees last season before making 11 starts in Las Vegas this year. He had worked nine major league innings in relief entering Tuesday, but again showed he’s right at home as a starter.

“All the confidence in the world,” Laffey told MLB.com. “Starting the year in Triple-A for me and having the opportunity to go there and start. I was able to go there and work on things that I had to do and just waiting for that opportunity to get into the rotation.

“Just coming up, helping the team out in the bullpen, I’ve always done whatever the team needed me to do but getting this opportunity is something I’ve been waiting for for a couple of years now.”

Laffey, who has carried the professional’s mindset since high school, without fail has done whatever his teams have wanted him to do, sometimes not to his advantage, such as filling three roles in the same season. On Tuesday night he pitched to a strong statement that he can help the Blue Jays in the most important role. Certainly he did everything he could do to help his team win and to ensure himself another start this weekend against the Angels.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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Mike Burke - Sports
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